Privacy Media ArticlesExcerpts of Key Privacy Media Articles in Major Media
Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.
The FBI illegally collected more than 2,000 U.S. telephone call records between 2002 and 2006 by invoking terrorism emergencies that did not exist or simply persuading phone companies to provide records, according to internal bureau memos and interviews. FBI officials issued approvals after the fact to justify their actions. E-mails obtained by The Washington Post detail how counterterrorism officials inside FBI headquarters did not follow their own procedures that were put in place to protect civil liberties. A Justice Department inspector general's report due out this month is expected to conclude that the FBI frequently violated the law with its emergency requests. FBI officials said they thought that nearly all of the requests involved terrorism investigations. FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni said ... that the FBI technically violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act when agents invoked nonexistent emergencies to collect records.
Note: The FBI, by admitting that "nearly all" of the phone records they obtained were related to "terrorism investigations," make it clear that some were not. But they used claims of "terrorism emergency" to obtain them. These they then assert were merely "technical" violations. For many disturbing reports from major media sources on the increasing threats to civil liberties under the pretext of the "war on terrorism," click here.
The Transportation Security Administration ... has on its web site a “mythbuster” that tries to reassure the public. Myth: The No-Fly list includes an 8-year-old boy. Buster: No 8-year-old is on a T.S.A. watch list. “Meet Mikey Hicks,” said Najlah Feanny Hicks, introducing her 8-year-old son, a New Jersey Cub Scout and frequent traveler who has seldom boarded a plane without a hassle because he shares the name of a suspicious person. “It’s not a myth.” Hicks’s mother initially sensed trouble when he was a baby and she could not get a seat for him on their flight to Florida at an airport kiosk; airline officials explained that his name “was on the list,” she recalled. The first time he was patted down, at Newark Liberty International Airport, Mikey was 2. He cried. After years of long delays and waits for supervisors at every airport ticket counter, this year’s vacation to the Bahamas badly shook up the family. Mikey was frisked on the way there, then more aggressively on the way home. “Up your arms, down your arms, up your crotch — someone is patting your 8-year-old down like he’s a criminal,” Mrs. Hicks recounted. It is true that Mikey is not on the federal government’s “no-fly” list, which includes about 2,500 people, less than 10 percent of them from the United States. But his name appears to be among some 13,500 on the larger “selectee” list, which sets off a high level of security screening.
Note: For many reports from major media sources on the extreme loss of liberties brought about by the highly touted "war on terrorism," click here.
Researchers are already using brain-computer interfaces to aid the disabled, treat diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, and provide therapy for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Work is under way on devices that may eventually let you communicate with friends telepathically, give you superhuman hearing and vision or even let you download data directly into your brain, a la "The Matrix." Researchers are practically giddy over the prospects. "We don't know what the limits are yet," says Melody Moore Jackson, director of Georgia Tech University's BrainLab. At the root of all this technology is the 3-pound generator we all carry in our head. It produces electricity at the microvolt level. But the signals are strong enough to move robots, wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs -- with the help of an external processor. One of the more controversial uses under development is telepathy. It would require at least two people to be implanted with electrodes that send and receive signals. DARPA, the Pentagon's technology research division, is currently working on an initiative called "Silent Talk," which would let soldiers on secret missions communicate with their thoughts alone. This stealth component is attractive, but naysayers fear that such soldiers could become manipulated for evil means.
Note: Remember that secret military research such as that undertaken by DARPA is often years ahead of capabilities publicly acknowledged.
The CIA is to be given broad access to the bank records of millions of Britons under a European Union plan to fight terrorism. The Brussels agreement, which will come into force in two months’ time, requires the 27 EU member states to grant requests for banking information made by the United States under its terrorist finance tracking programme. The EU said it had agreed that Europeans would be compelled to release the information to the CIA “as a matter of urgency”. The records will be kept in a US database for five years before being deleted. Critics say the system is “lopsided” because there is no reciprocal arrangement under which the UK authorities can easily access the bank accounts of US citizens. They also say the plan to sift through cross-border and domestic EU bank accounts gives US intelligence more scope to consult our bank accounts than is granted to law enforcement agencies in the UK or the rest of Europe. This weekend civil liberties groups and privacy campaigners said the surveillance programme, introduced as an emergency measure in 2001, was being imposed on Britain without a proper debate. Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: “The massive scope for transferring personal information from Europe to the United States is extremely worrying, especially in the absence of public debate or parliamentary scrutiny either at EU or domestic level.
Note: For reports from major media sources on erosion of privacy by governments and corporations, click here.
In spring 2007, as one of many American air travelers who were inconvenienced when our names popped up on a federal "watch list," I never could get straight answers from my government. Was this a mistake, or was I being flagged for some reason? How many Americans were on that watch list? What were the criteria for getting on it? I filed my appeal with the Department of Homeland Security's Travel Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP). The Department of Homeland Security received 75,315 requests for redress under the TRIP program as of Oct. 31. Of those requests, 49,826 have been adjudicated, 7,217 are under review, and 18,272 are awaiting supporting documentation, according to the DHS. "Absolutely, the system didn't work as well as it should have," said Suzanne Trevino, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration. Once an airline receives a passenger's control number, along with full name, date of birth and gender, that information is transmitted to the government for clearance. Fewer than 2,500 known and suspected terrorists are actually on the "no fly" list, according to Trevino. And less than 10 percent of them are Americans. [Yet] the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center has acknowledged that its watch list has more than 1 million entries of names and aliases representing about 400,000 people [with] with an average of 1,600 people who presented a "reasonable suspicion" being added every day.
Note: For many revealing reports from major media sources on the worsening threats to civil liberties, click here.
Every phone call, text message, email and website visit made by private citizens is to be stored for a year and will be available for monitoring by government bodies. All telecoms companies and internet service providers will be required by law to keep a record of every customerâ€™s personal communications, showing who they have contacted, when and where, as well as the websites they have visited. Despite widespread opposition to the increasing amount of surveillance in Britain, 653 public bodies will be given access to the information, including police, local councils, the Financial Services Authority, the ambulance service, fire authorities and even prison governors. They will not require the permission of a judge or a magistrate to obtain the information, but simply the authorisation of a senior police officer or the equivalent of a deputy head of department at a local authority. The Government announced yesterday it was pressing ahead with privately held â€śBig Brotherâ€ť databases that opposition leaders said amounted to â€śstate-spyingâ€ť and a form of â€ścovert surveillanceâ€ť on the public. It is doing so despite its own consultation showing that it has little public support. The new rules ... will not only force communications companies to keep their records for longer, but to expand the type of data they keep to include details of every website their customers visit.
Note: For many more reports from major media sources on the disturbing trend toward increasing government and corporate surveillance and loss of privacy, click here.
In a case that raises questions about online journalism and privacy rights, the U.S. Department of Justice sent a formal request to an independent news site ordering it to provide details of all reader visits on a certain day. The grand jury subpoena also required the Philadelphia-based Indymedia.us Web site "not to disclose the existence of this request" unless authorized by the Justice Department, a gag order that presents an unusual quandary for any news organization. Kristina Clair, a 34-year old Linux administrator living in Philadelphia who provides free server space for Indymedia.us, said she was shocked to receive the Justice Department's subpoena. The subpoena ... demanded "all IP traffic to and from www.indymedia.us" on June 25, 2008. It instructed Clair to "include IP addresses, times, and any other identifying information," including e-mail addresses, physical addresses, registered accounts, and Indymedia readers' Social Security Numbers, bank account numbers, [and] credit card numbers. Clair [called] the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, which represented her at no cost. Making this investigation more mysterious is that Indymedia.us is an aggregation site, meaning articles that appear on it were published somewhere else first, and there's no hint about what sparked the criminal probe. Clair, the system administrator, says that no IP (Internet Protocol) addresses are recorded for Indymedia.us, and non-IP address logs are kept for a few weeks and then discarded. "This is the first time we've seen them try to get the IP address of everyone who visited a particular site," [EFF's Kevin] Bankston said. "That it was a news organization was an additional troubling fact that implicates First Amendment rights."
Note: For many reports from major media sources of growing government threats to civil liberties, click here.
The Department of Homeland Security is finalizing a proposal to collect fingerprints or eye scans from all foreign travelers at U.S. airports as they leave the country, officials said, a costly screening program that airlines have opposed. The plan ... would collect fingerprints at airport security checkpoints, departure gates or terminal kiosks, allowing the government to track when roughly 35 million foreign visitors a year. In a concession to industry, DHS said it probably will drop plans to require airlines to pay for the bulk of the program and is looking to cut costs, which could reach $1 billion to $2 billion over a decade, largely to be paid by taxpayers or foreign travelers. In addition, the program would not operate for now at land borders, where 80 percent of noncitizens enter and leave the country, because fingerprinting travelers there could cost billions more and significantly delay commerce. Congress focused on inbound travelers after the [September 11, 2001 attacks,] appropriating $3 billion since 2003 on the US-VISIT tracking program. The program collects biological identifiers, such as fingerprints and digital photographs, from all arriving foreigners except Canadians and Mexicans with special border-crossing cards. By the time Bush administration officials unveiled a $3.5 billion program in April 2008, however, political impetus for changes had weakened.
Note: For many reports from major media sources of growing government threats to civil liberties, click here.
On a remote edge of Utah's dry and arid high desert ... hard-hatted construction workers with top-secret clearances are preparing to build [a] mammoth $2 billion structure. It's being built by the ultra-secret National Security Agency ... to house trillions of phone calls, e-mail messages, and [electronic data trails of all kinds]. The NSA is also completing work on another data archive, this one in San Antonio, Texas, which will be nearly the size of the Alamodome. Just how much information will be stored in these windowless cybertemples? A recent report prepared by the MITRE Corporation, a Pentagon think tank, [states] "Sensor data volume could potentially increase to the level of Yottabytes [10-to-the-24th-power bytes] by 2015." Once vacuumed up and stored in these near-infinite "libraries," the data are then analyzed by powerful infoweapons, supercomputers running complex algorithmic programs, to determine who among us may be — or may one day become — a terrorist. Emerging [after 9/11] as the most powerful chief the spy world has ever known was the director of the NSA. He is in charge of an organization three times the size of the CIA and empowered in 2008 by Congress to spy on Americans to an unprecedented degree. These new centers in Utah, Texas, and possibly elsewhere will likely become the centralized repositories for the data intercepted by the NSA in America's version of the "big brother database."
Note: James Bamford, the author of this review of a new book on the history of the NSA, has himself written three important books on the agency. For many revealing reports from reliable sources on the developing capacity by government and corporate surveillance to construct a "Big Brother" states, click here.
After a Somali-American teenager from Minneapolis committed a suicide bombing in Africa in October 2008, the Federal Bureau of Investigation began investigating whether a Somali Islamist group had recruited him on United States soil. Instead of collecting information only on people about whom they had a tip or links to the teenager, agents fanned out to scrutinize Somali communities. The operation unfolded as the Bush administration was relaxing some domestic intelligence-gathering rules. The F.B.I.’s interpretation of those rules was recently made public when it released, in response to a Freedom of Information lawsuit, its “Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide.” The disclosure of the manual has opened the widest window yet onto how agents have been given greater power in the post-Sept. 11 era. But the manual’s details have alarmed privacy advocates. “It raises fundamental questions about whether a domestic intelligence agency can protect civil liberties if they feel they have a right to collect broad personal information about people they don’t even suspect of wrongdoing,” said Mike German, a former F.B.I. agent who now works for the American Civil Liberties Union. The manual authorizes agents to open an “assessment” to “proactively” seek information about whether people or organizations are involved in national security threats. Assessments permit agents to use potentially intrusive techniques, like sending confidential informants to infiltrate organizations and following and photographing targets in public. When selecting targets, agents are permitted to consider political speech or religion as one criterion.
Note: To read the FBI's recently-released and redacted new "Domestic Investigations and Operation Guide", described by the New York Times as giving "F.B.I. agents the most power in national security matters that they have had since the post-Watergate era," click here.
As demonstrations have evolved with the help of text messages and online social networks, so too has the response of law enforcement. On Thursday, F.B.I. agents descended on a house in Jackson Heights, Queens [NY], and spent 16 hours searching it. The most likely reason for the raid: a man who lived there had helped coordinate communications among protesters at the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh. The man, Elliot Madison, 41, a social worker who has described himself as an anarchist, had been arrested in Pittsburgh on Sept. 24 and charged with hindering apprehension or prosecution, criminal use of a communication facility and possession of instruments of crime. The Pennsylvania State Police said he was found in a hotel room with computers and police scanners while using the social-networking site Twitter to spread information about police movements. He has denied wrongdoing. American protesters first made widespread use of mass text messages in New York, during the 2004 Republican National Convention. Messages, sent as events unfolded, allowed demonstrators and others to react quickly to word of arrests, police mobilizations and roving rallies. Mass texting has since become a valued tool among protesters, particularly at large-scale demonstrations. Mr. Madison [may be] the first to be charged criminally while sending information electronically to protesters about the police. “He and a friend were part of a communications network among people protesting the G-20,” Mr. Madison’s lawyer, Martin Stolar, said on Saturday. “There’s absolutely nothing that he’s done that should subject him to any criminal liability.”
Note: For many reports from reliable sources on increasing government erosion of civil liberties, click here.
Suppose you're returning home from a vacation in Cancun. A customs agent asks you to open your suitcase so he can check its contents. So far, so good. Now, the agent asks you to log on to your laptop so he can read your e-mails and personal files and examine which Web sites you've visited. He makes a copy of your hard drive so the government can comb through its contents. You've done nothing to give the agent any cause for suspicion. That can't be legal - can it? Until recently, it would not have been allowed. Long-standing customs directives prohibited agents from reading travelers' personal documents unless they reasonably suspected them to be merchandise or evidence of illegal activity. Then the Bush administration changed the rules, allowing agents to "review and analyze" the contents of electronic devices, including laptops, cell phones and BlackBerrys "absent individualized suspicion." Agents also could make copies of the devices' contents and share them with other government agencies. In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in May, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano promised to review the policy. Homeland Security has now released a new policy - and it is the same as the Bush policy in almost every relevant respect. The government may still search electronic devices without reasonable suspicion, retain copies indefinitely to complete its search and share information with other agencies. Both administrations have cited national security to justify suspicionless searches. There's no evidence, however, that a suspicionless search has ever turned up a security threat.
Note: The author of this op-ed, Elizabeth Goitein, is the director of the Liberty and National Security Project at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. For lots more on how politicians use "national security" as a means to protect their own manipulations at the expense of the public good, click here.
The European security research programme (ESRP) has a €1.4bn EU budget and its twin objectives are to enhance European security and foster the growth of a globally competitive security industry in Europe. Unfortunately, in its haste to cash-in on the homeland security boom, the EU has effectively outsourced the design of its security research agenda to some of the corporations that have the most to gain from its implementation. It has created bodies outside the formal structure of the EU, beyond parliamentary scrutiny and democratic control. The result is a public research programme designed by lobbyists, for lobbyists, with corporations invited to shape the objectives and annual priorities, and then apply for the money on offer. ESRP was the brainchild of the "group of personalities", an EU advisory body convened in 2003 that included some of Europe's largest defence and IT contractors alongside the likes of NATO, the EU military committee and the Rand Corporation. The group's primary concern was the scale of the US government's investment in homeland security R&D, which meant that the US was "taking a lead" in the development of security "technologies and equipment which … could meet a number of Europe's needs", putting US multinationals in "a very strong competitive position".
Shares of VeriChip Corp tripled after the company said it had been granted an exclusive license to two patents, which will help it to develop implantable virus detection systems in humans. The patents, held by VeriChip partner Receptors LLC, relate to biosensors that can detect the H1N1 and other viruses. The technology will combine with VeriChip's implantable radio frequency identification devices to develop virus triage detection systems. The triage system will provide multiple levels of identification -- the first will identify the agent as virus or non-virus, the second level will classify the virus and alert the user to the presence of pandemic threat viruses and the third level will identify the precise pathogen, VeriChip said in a white paper published May 7, 2009. Shares of VeriChip were up 186 percent.
Note: Beware of efforts to scare you into getting microchipped for your own safety. Click here for more on this. For more on pharmaceutical corporation profiteering from swine flu vaccines, click here.
The Justice Department has indicated that the Obama administration is in support of renewing [three] controversial sections of the USA Patriot Act that expire later this year. The provisions that will expire in December include Section 206, that allows "roving" wiretaps so FBI agents can tap multiple phones or computers (with court authorization) that a specific person (target) may use. Another expiring provision, Section 215, is the so-called "library provision," which allows investigators to obtain [library, medical, business, banking and other] records with approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. And the final provision which was nicknamed the "Lone Wolf" authorization, allows intelligence gathering of people not suspected of being part of a foreign government or known terrorist organization. Critics of the Patriot Act protested loudly that the FBI could obtain individuals' library records under the legislation. [But] section 215 is much more expansive than reviewing a suspected terrorist's summer reading list. [It] allows the FBI to obtain any business record, "any tangible things," like credit card and bank statements and also allows access to medical and mental health records. The provision has been used to obtain communication and subscriber information to help set up surveillance and monitoring of computers and telephones.
Note: The American Library Association, the national organization of professional librarians, was the first and strongest defender of civil liberties after the passage of the PATRIOT Act. For a discussion of the concerns of professional librarians over this decision by the Obama administration, click here.
The Obama administration will largely preserve Bush-era procedures allowing the government to search -- without suspicion of wrongdoing -- the contents of a traveler's laptop computer, cellphone or other electronic device. The policy, disclosed ... in a pair of Department of Homeland Security directives, describes more fully than did the Bush administration the procedures by which travelers' laptops, iPods, cameras and other digital devices can be searched and seized when they cross a U.S. border. And it sets time limits for completing searches. Representatives of civil liberties and travelers groups say they see little substantive difference between the Bush-era policy, which prompted controversy, and this one. "It's a disappointing ratification of the suspicionless search policy put in place by the Bush administration," said Catherine Crump, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. "It doesn't deal with the fundamental problem, which is that under the policy, government officials are free to search people's laptops and cellphones for any reason whatsoever." "Under the policy begun by Bush and now continued by Obama, the government can open your laptop and read your medical records, financial records, e-mails, work product and personal correspondence -- all without any suspicion of illegal activity," said Elizabeth Goitein, who leads the liberty and national security project at the nonprofit Brennan Center for Justice.
Note: For important revelations of government threats to civil liberties, click here.
President Obama's effort to revive the American car industry with a "cash-for-clunkers" scheme has become embroiled in a row over government snooping. The problems arose after the Department of Transportation claimed that when dealers logged on to the clunkers website their computers â€” and everything on them â€” become the property of the US Government. â€śThis application provides access to the Department of Transportation (DoT) CARS system,â€ť the warning message read. â€śWhen logged on to the CARS system, your computer is considered a Federal computer system and is the property of the United States Government. Any or all uses of this system and all files on this system may be intercepted, monitored, recorded, copied, audited, inspected, and disclosed to authorised CARS, DoT, and law enforcement personnel, as well as authorised officials of other agencies, both domestic and foreign." By the time the disclaimer had been circulated widely on blogs, posted on YouTube and become the subject of a ferocious on-air editorial by the conservative Fox News host Glenn Beck, the Department of Transportation had issued a statement saying that â€śwe are working to revise the languageâ€ť. No explanation was given as to why the original disclaimer was worded so aggressively. Members of the general public do not need to log on to the website so were not asked to agree to the same conditions as dealers. Mr Obamaâ€™s ... critics argue that the controversy is another example of the intrusiveness that will accompany the Presidentâ€™s plans to expand the role of government in the lives of Americans.
Note: Watch a revealing Fox news video report of this unbelievable development at this link. Big Brother at work.
Climbing into his Volvo, outfitted with a Matrics antenna and a Motorola reader he'd bought on eBay for $190, Chris Paget cruised the streets of San Francisco with this objective: To read the identity cards of strangers, wirelessly, without ever leaving his car. It took him 20 minutes to strike hacker's gold. Zipping past Fisherman's Wharf, his scanner detected, then downloaded to his laptop, the unique serial numbers of two pedestrians' electronic U.S. passport cards embedded with radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags. Within an hour, he'd "skimmed" the identifiers of four more of the new, microchipped PASS cards from a distance of 20 feet. Paget's February experiment demonstrated something privacy advocates had feared for years: That RFID, coupled with other technologies, could make people trackable without their knowledge or consent. He filmed his drive-by heist, and soon his video went viral on the Web, intensifying a debate over a push by government, federal and state, to put tracking technologies in identity documents and over their potential to erode privacy. With advances in tracking technologies coming at an ever-faster rate, critics say, it won't be long before governments could be able to identify and track anyone in real time, 24-7, from a cafe in Paris to the shores of California. The key to getting such a system to work, these opponents say, is making sure everyone carries an RFID tag linked to a biometric data file. On June 1, it became mandatory for Americans entering the United States by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean to present identity documents embedded with RFID tags, though conventional passports remain valid until they expire.
Note: For lots more on corporate and government surveillance, click here.
The Obama administration will proceed with a Bush-era plan to use National Security Agency assistance in screening government computer traffic on private-sector networks, with AT&T as the likely test site, according to three current and former government officials. President Obama said in May that government efforts to protect computer systems from attack would not involve "monitoring private-sector networks or Internet traffic," and Department of Homeland Security officials say the new program will scrutinize only data going to or from government systems. But the program has provoked debate within DHS, the officials said, because of uncertainty about whether private data can be shielded from unauthorized scrutiny, how much of a role NSA should play and whether the agency's involvement in warrantless wiretapping during George W. Bush's presidency would draw controversy. Each time a private citizen visited a "dot-gov" Web site or sent an e-mail to a civilian government employee, that action would be screened for potential harm to the network. Under a classified pilot program approved during the Bush administration, NSA data and hardware would be used to protect the networks of some civilian government agencies. Part of an initiative known as Einstein 3, the plan called for telecommunications companies to route the Internet traffic of civilian agencies through a monitoring box that would search for and block computer codes designed to penetrate or otherwise compromise networks. AT&T, the world's largest telecommunications firm, was the Bush administration's choice to participate in the test. AT&T officials declined to comment. The prospect of NSA involvement in cybersecurity ... fuels concerns about unwarranted government snooping into private communication."
The National Security Agency is facing renewed scrutiny over the extent of its domestic surveillance program, with critics in Congress saying its recent intercepts of the private telephone calls and e-mail messages of Americans are broader than previously acknowledged, current and former officials said. Since April, when it was disclosed that the intercepts of some private communications of Americans went beyond legal limits in late 2008 and early 2009, several Congressional committees have been investigating. Those inquiries have led to concerns in Congress about the agency’s ability to collect and read domestic e-mail messages of Americans on a widespread basis, officials said. Supporting that conclusion is the account of a former N.S.A. analyst who, in a series of interviews, described being trained in 2005 for a program in which the agency routinely examined large volumes of Americans’ e-mail messages without court warrants. Two intelligence officials confirmed that the program was still in operation. Both the former analyst’s account and the rising concern among some members of Congress about the N.S.A.’s recent operation are raising fresh questions about the spy agency. Representative Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey and chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, has been investigating the incidents and said he had become increasingly troubled by the agency’s handling of domestic communications. In an interview, Mr. Holt disputed assertions by Justice Department and national security officials that the overcollection was inadvertent. “Some actions are so flagrant that they can’t be accidental,” Mr. Holt said.
Note: For lots more from major media sources on the ever-increasing government and coroporate threats to privacy, click here.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.