NEW YORK - The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Mississippi, and the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center filed a class action suit late yesterday against the Scott County (Mississippi) sheriff, district attorney, and judges after learning that the Scott County Detention Center has held people for as long as a year without appointing counsel and without indicting them. The county’s practices violate the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments’ rights to counsel, to a speedy trial, and to a fair bail hearing.
“This is indefinite detention, pure and simple. Scott County jail routinely holds people without giving them a lawyer and without formally charging them for months, with no end in sight. For those waiting for indictment, the county has created its own Constitution-free zone,” said Brandon Buskey, Staff Attorney at the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project. “These prisoners’ cases are frozen, their lives outside the jail are disintegrating, and they haven’t even been charged with a crime. The county has tossed these people into a legal black hole.”
One plaintiff in the ACLU’s suit, Joshua Bassett, has been in the Scott County Detention Center since January 16 of this year; he has been denied an attorney and a grand jury hearing. Another, Octavious Burks, has been in the jail since November 18, 2013. Neither Mr. Bassett nor Mr. Burks could afford their bail. Mr. Burks has been through this ordeal twice before. Since 2009, he has been jailed in Scott County on three separate charges without indictment or counsel.
The ACLU has evidence that many others have been trapped in the Scott County Detention Center for months at a time because they couldn’t pay bail and, like Mr. Bassett and Mr. Burks, were denied counsel and a grand jury hearing.
The article has some sincere depth. It explores when and how this trend got started. I selected a part that particularly resonates in terms of Ferguson area police (county or city) pointing assault rifles at a peaceful crowd. Assaulting the media with tear gas. Clearing the airspace to harass media.
it’s a consistent thread-SWAT units were formed for those rare times where a criminal or terror act outguns or outsizes the local regular PD. Now we see then used for search warrants in cases where the homeowner simply owns a registered pistol. Somehow it’s worth raiding with SWAT rather than detaining the guy away from home, and then searching with a warrant.
Surplus war making gear gets given to local PD. Much of that equipment is intended for extraordinary threats. Body armor way beyond that of an ordinary cop. Headgear, night vision, military rifles… The list goes on and on. Soon enough we see that very same gear being deployed against a legal protest. If it’s really crowd control-Why is the LRAD on an MRAP rather than just an SUV?
At the end game we have a local population abused by police power. It is not the locals or the threats from local criminals that changed. It’s the mindset built by a “default to SWAT” mentality. The same mindset that insists bigger is better. More armor, more powerful weapons. That an MRAP is what you need for a protest. That it’s okay to scope and sweep unarmed Americans with firearms.
Slippery slope? More like an upright ice rink.
Upping the Racial Profiling Ante
In a recently released report, “War Comes Home,” the American Civil Liberties Union (my employer) discovered that nearly 80% of all SWAT raids it reviewed between 2011 and 2012 were deployed to execute a search warrant.
Pause here a moment and consider that these violent home invasions are routinely used against people who are only suspected of a crime. Up-armored paramilitary teams now regularly bash down doors in search of evidence of a possible crime.In other words, police departments increasingly choose a tactic that often results in injury and property damage as its first option, not the one of last resort.In more than 60% of the raids the ACLU investigated, SWAT members rammed down doors in search of possible drugs, not to save a hostage, respond to a barricade situation, or neutralize an active shooter.
On the other side of that broken-down door, more often than not, are blacks and Latinos. When the ACLU could identify the race of the person or people whose home was being broken into, 68% of the SWAT raids against minorities were for the purpose of executing a warrant in search of drugs. When it came to whites, that figure dropped to 38%, despite the well-known fact that blacks, whites, and Latinos all use drugs at roughly the same rates. SWAT teams, it seems, have a disturbing record of disproportionately applying their specialized skill set within communities of color.
More: To Terrify and Occupy
I’m thinking slippery slope about like an ice rink tilted 45 degrees. Don’t misunderstand me- With properly educated judicial oversight these tools are useful. Without that the FBI has demonstrated over and over it will exploit any but the most diligent oversight powers.
The ACLU’s Soghoian says a child porn sting is probably the best possible use of the FBI’s drive-by download capability. “It’s tough to imagine a legitimate excuse to visit one of those forums: the mere act of looking at child pornography is a crime,” he notes. His primary worry is that Operation Torpedo is the first step to the FBI using the tactic much more broadly, skipping any public debate over the possible unintended consequences. “You could easily imagine them using this same technology on everyone who visits a jihadi forum, for example,” he says. “And there are lots of legitimate reasons for someone to visit a jihadi forum: research, journalism, lawyers defending a case. ACLU attorneys read Inspire Magazine, not because we are particularly interested in the material, but we need to cite stuff in briefs.”
Soghoian is also concerned that the judges who considered NIT applications don’t fully understand that they’re being asked to permit the use of hacking software that takes advantage of software vulnerabilities to breach a machine’s defenses. The Operation Torpedo search warrant application, for example, never uses the words “hack,” “malware,” or “exploit.” Instead, the NIT comes across as something you’d be happy to spend 99 cents for in the App Store. “Under the NIT authorized by this warrant, the website would augment [its] content with some additional computer instructions,” the warrant reads.
From the perspective of experts in computer security and privacy, the NIT is malware, pure and simple. That was demonstrated last August, when, perhaps buoyed by the success of Operation Torpedo, the FBI launched a second deployment of the NIT targeting more Tor hidden services.
The trick is going to be allowing this technology and regulating it against abuse. by anyone, law officers or commercial enterprise.
For almost a month, Kansas Citians lived through what amounted to a horror movie without an ending.
According to the narrative described in court documents, it would take cutting-edge and occasionally controversial law enforcement technology, including license-plate readers, to put an end to the horror show.
The story of this very 21st century hunt began playing out on the tangle of freeways just south of Kansas City, Mo., where, starting in March, one driver after another reported being shot at by a mystery gunman — nobody they knew, for reasons nobody could fathom.
The suspect would later be identified as a driver wearing a black hoodie, a black mask and black sunglasses. His strikes came unpredictably, police discovered, often right before his victims drove onto highway splits and exits. That’s when drivers would hear a bang, or suddenly feel a sharp sting.
Documents Reveal Unregulated Use of Stingrays in California
By Linda Lye, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 4:37pm
Local law enforcement agencies across the Bay Area have so-called stingray devices, a powerful cellphone surveillance tool, and more are planning to acquire the technology, according to public records recently obtained by Sacramento News10. The devices are highly intrusive and completely unregulated. Although the Wall Street Journal reported in 2011 that they were being used by the federal government, the News10 records reveal for the first time that these devices are also in widespread use by local authorities stretching from San José to Sacramento. The revelations are troubling. Once again, we see the proliferation of powerful new surveillance tools, but without any rules to constrain their use. The acquisition of these devices is shrouded in secrecy and driven by federal grant money, which undermines local democratic oversight. Their actual use by local law enforcement reflects the all too common phenomenon of mission creep: Although the justification for acquiring these devices is “fighting terrorism,” agencies seem to be using them for ordinary criminal law enforcement.
What’s a stingray and what are the Fourth Amendment implications?
A stingray is a device that mimics a cell tower and thereby tricks all wireless devices on the same network into communicating with it. From a privacy perspective, this is worrying because it collects information about the devices and whereabouts of innocent third parties, not just the target of an investigation. In addition, it can pinpoint targets with extraordinary precision, meaning that individuals can be tracked even when they are inside their homes. Although some of the devices sold in this country are configured not to capture the content of communications, many offered for sale by surveillance vendors can be used for eavesdropping.
There is a real question as to whether stingrays can ever be used in a constitutional fashion. They are the electronic equivalent of dragnet “general searches” prohibited by the Fourth Amendment. But unfortunately, there are currently no statutes or regulations that specifically address how and under what circumstances stingrays can be used, and very little caselaw.
While there was predictable outrage from many right-wing quarters this week over Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s veto of S.B. 1062 — a bill that would have legalized discrimination against LGBT people on the basis of protecting the “religious freedom” of people who did not wish to do business with them — the overwhelming reaction by most Arizonans, particularly its business people, was one of relief.
After all, the state is still recovering from the economic blowback wrought by another piece of far-right legislation - the infamous anti-immigrant S.B. 1070 legislation that put local law officers in the business of enforcing federal immigration law. The damage inflicted by the law itself, worsened by boycotts and other economic retaliation provoked by that legislation, remain fresh in the minds of the state’s business leaders, who pleaded with Brewer to boycott the law, as did the state’s entire congressional delegation and even a few of the legislators who had originally voted for the bill.
For now, the legislation appears to be dead in Arizona. But it is only one of several states in which the “religious freedom” legislation has made its presence felt, and in several states it may yet be approved.
You’ve probably heard politicians or pundits say that “metadata doesn’t matter.” They argue that police and intelligence agencies shouldn’t need probable cause warrants to collect information about our communications. Metadata isn’t all that revealing, they say, it’s just numbers.
But the digital metadata trails you leave behind every day say more about you than you can imagine. Now, thanks to two MIT students, you don’t have to imagine—at least with respect to your email.
Deepak Jagdish and Daniel Smilkov’s Immersion program maps your life, using your email account. After you give the researchers access to your email metadata—not the content, just the time and date stamps, and “To” and “Cc” fields—they’ll return to you a series of maps and graphs that will blow your mind. The program will remind you of former loves, illustrate the changing dynamics of your professional and personal networks over time, mark deaths and transitions in your life, and more. You’ll probably learn something new about yourself, if you study it closely enough. (The students say they delete your data on your command.)
Whether or not you grant the program access to your data, watch the video embedded below to see Jagdish and Smilkov show illustrations from Immersion and talk about what they discerned about themselves from looking at their own metadata maps. While you’re watching, remember that while the NSA and FBI are collecting our phone records in bulk, and using advanced computer algorithms to make meaning from them, state and local government officials can often also get this information without a warrant.
Federal courts are scrutinizing the government’s use of its secret No Fly List, and they don’t like what they see. In two recent decisions, judges have either rejected or expressed skepticism about the government’s arguments for secrecy and against a meaningful process for people to challenge their inclusion on the blacklist that bans them from travel to or from the United States or over American airspace. These decisions come on the heels of an August 2013 ruling in the ACLU’s No Fly List challenge, in which a court found, in a first-of-its-kind preliminary ruling, that our clients’ ability to fly internationally is protected by the Constitution.
On January 14, 2014, U.S. District Judge William Alsup issued a decision in the case of Rahinah Ibrahim, a Stanford PhD student and Malaysian citizen who was prevented from boarding a flight back to the United States, handcuffed, and held in a detention cell for two hours based on what turned out to be her mistaken placement on the No Fly List. After a trial, Judge Alsup concluded that the government’s internal administrative redress procedures (the same procedures at issue in the ACLU’s case) violate the Constitution’s Due Process clause because they do not provide a meaningful opportunity to contest or expunge erroneous information that forms the basis for inclusion on the list. He required the government to disclose to Ms. Ibrahim whether she is on the No Fly List and to “cleanse and/or correct its lists” of mistaken information about her.
In another ruling issued on January 22, 2014, U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga rejected the government’s request to dismiss a case brought by Gulet Mohamed, a U.S. citizen who alleges that he was prevented from returning to the United States from Kuwait because he appeared on the No Fly List, and that he was subsequently subjected to beatings and mistreatment while in detention in Kuwait.
Judge Trenga was unsparing in describing the consequences of inclusion on the No Fly List: “The impact on a citizen who cannot use a commercial aircraft is profound,” he wrote, and “placement on the No Fly List is life defining and life restricting across a range of constitutionally protected activities and aspirations.” In short, in Judge Trenga’s words, “a No Fly List designation transforms a person into a second class citizen, or worse.”
School bus driver George Nathaniel III was fired last week for inviting the children on his routes to pray with him each morning, despite being repeatedly asked by his company to stop, reports CBS Local.
He told media that “To fire a bus driver for praying for the safety of the children” is not right, according to the Star Tribune. He prayed on the bus as he is a pastor at Elite Church of the First Born and Grace Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis.
The school district of Burnsville, Minnesota complained to his employers, Durham School Services, who proceeded to give Nathaniel a warning and assign him two new bus routes serving Edward D. Neill Elementary School and Metcalf Junior High School. However, Nathaniel refused to comply with their direction and said, “I let them know I am a pastor and I am going to pray,” reports the Star Tribune.