ACLU NJ Release Police Misconduct Recording Android App “Police Tape”

A new Android app released by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and allows users to secretly record police encounters and upload their recordings to a public website.

Police Tape,” builds on work done by with their “Cop Recorder” and “OpenWatch Recorder” programs. ACLU-NJ’s release adds even more helpful content, like legal advice on citizens’ rights during police encounters.

“This app provides an essential tool for police accountability,” ACLU-NJ Executive Director Deborah Jacobs said in an advisory. “Too often incidents of serious misconduct go unreported because citizens don’t feel that they will be believed. Here, the technology empowers citizens to place a check on police power directly.”

ACLU-NJ recommends that only New Jersey residents use the app due to certain states still trying to criminalize the act of citizens recording police in public. The app’s terms and conditions also recommend that users consult an attorney before publishing any recordings online.

A version of the app for iOS devices was still awaiting approval from Apple.

“Historically, vivid images of police mistreating citizens have seared our public consciousness and in some cases spurred important changes,” ACLU-NJ Policy Counsel Alexander Shalom explained. “Photos and video are critical to ensuring police accountability and police should know that the eyes of the public are on them at all times.”


Marine Sergeant Facing Dismissal For Anti-Obama Facebook Page

A Marine, Sgt. Gary Stein, has been notified by the Marine Corps., that they are moving to dismiss Stein for running a Facebook page called “Armed Forces Tea Party” that criticizes the Obama administration. Sgt. Stein is being accused of violating Pentagon policies that bar troops from engaging in political activities.

The military has had a policy in place since the Civil War limiting the free speech of service members, including criticizing the commander in chief.

David Loy, of the American Civil Liberties Union in San Diego County, said that based on what he has seen in the media, he thinks there may be a legitimate concern on the part of the Corps about Stein speaking as a member of the armed forces because of his Facebook page’s name.

“The military has a very strong interest and appropriately so to remaining neutral,” he said. “The last thing we want is our military taking side on political issues.”

Stein said he has received hundreds of emails from service members and the public in support of him.

“They’re entitled to their opinions, but I still think this is a freedom of speech issue,” Stein said. “I’m standing up for the Constitution.”

Stein, a nine-year member of the Corps, started the page to encourage fellow service members to exercise their right to free speech.

The Marine Corps said it decided to take action after Stein posted on Facebook that he would not follow “unlawful orders from Obama”. He also criticized the comments of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

According to Pentagon directives, military personnel in uniform cannot sponsor a political club; participate in any TV or radio program or group discussion that advocates for or against a political party, candidate or cause; or speak at any event promoting a political movement. Commissioned officers also may not use contemptuous words against senior officials, including the defense secretary or the president.

Stein said his statement about Obama was part of an online debate about NATO allowing U.S. troops to be tried for the Quran burnings in Afghanistan. In that context, he said, he was stating that he would not follow orders from the president if those orders included detaining U.S. citizens, disarming them or in anyway violating their constitutional rights.

In addition to being discharged, Stein said he would have his rank reduced to lance corporal if he is proven to be in violation. .

Stein was first cautioned by superiors at Camp Pendleton in 2010, after he started his Facebook page and criticized Obama’s health care overhaul. Stein volunteered to take down the page while he reviewed the rules at the request of his superiors.

He later determined he was not in violation and relaunched the page.

Stein says he will fight the charges.

Former military prosecutor Lisa Windsor said since the Civil War, military members have tested those limits and have gotten in trouble. Now these cases can go global because of the Internet.

“I think they’ve been very lenient with him so far,” Windsor said.

Stein said he will not wear his uniform when he speaks to tea party supporters but he likely will mention his case.

Democratic Senators Issue Strong Warning About Patriot Act

For more than two years, several Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee have warned that the federal government has been secretly overstepping its bounds when interpreting the surveillance power granted to it under the Patriot Act. In fact some have stated that the American public, or even others in Congress, would be alarmed if they knew about it.

On Thursday, two of those senators, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, took their warnings even further. They said a top-secret intelligence operation, based on that secret legal theory, that executive branch officials have claimed is crucial to national security is not actually all that crucial at all.

The senators, who also said that Americans would be “stunned” to know what the government believes the Patriot Act allows it to do, made their remarks in a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. after a Justice Department official last month told a judge that disclosing anything about the program “could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States.”

The Justice Department believes that any disclosure of information regarding its interpretation of the Patriot Act could alert enemies of the state to the methods used by the government to collect certain intelligence.

The Dept. is also seeking to have two Freedom of Information Act lawsuits dismissed. The suits were filed by The New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union. They are related to how the Patriot Act is being interpreted.

The senators agree that certain operations must be kept secret. However they also said that the government in a democracy must act within publicly understood law so that voters “can ratify or reject decisions made on their behalf” even if that “obligation to be transparent with the public” creates other challenges.

“We would also note that in recent months we have grown increasingly skeptical about the actual value of the ‘intelligence collection operation,’ ” they added. “This has come as a surprise to us, as we were initially inclined to take the executive branch’s assertions about the importance of this ‘operation’ at face value.”

The dispute revolves around Section 215 of the Patriot Act, under which agents may obtain a secret order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court allowing them to get access to any “tangible things” such as business records that are deemed “relevant” to a terrorism or espionage investigation.

There appears to be both an ordinary use for Section 215 orders, like using a grand jury subpoena to get specific information in a traditional criminal investigation and a separate classified intelligence collection activity that also relies upon them.

The interpretation of Section 215 that authorizes this secret surveillance operation is not obvious from a plain text reading of the provision, and was developed through a series of classified rulings by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The letter from Mr. Wyden and Mr. Udall also complained that while the Obama administration told Congress in August 2009 that it would establish “a regular process for reviewing, redacting and releasing significant opinions” of the court, since then “not a single redacted opinion has been released.”

Obama Administration Doubles Secret U.S. No Fly List

The amount of names on the government’s secret list of individuals banned from flying to or within the United States has more than doubled in the past year.

The no-fly list skyrocketed from around 10,000 known or suspected terrorists one year ago to about 21,000, according to government figures provided to the Associated Press. 500 of those banned from flying are American citizens.

After the failed Christmas 2009 bombing attempt on a Detroit-bound jetliner, the Obama administration lowered the criteria for putting people on the list, and then scoured its files for anyone who qualified. True to his promise of more government transparency the President  will not disclose who is on the list or why someone might be placed on it.

“Both U.S. intelligence and law enforcement communities and foreign services continue to identify people who want to cause us harm, particularly in the U.S. and particularly as it relates to aviation,” Transportation Security Administrator John Pistole said in an interview.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who pleaded guilty to the 2009 attack, was listed in a large U.S. intelligence database that included partial names and relatives of suspected terrorists. That database supplies information to the broad terror watch list, of which the no-fly list is a component, but only when there is enough information connecting the person to terrorism. Officials believe the U.S. had enough information at the time to place Abdulmutallab on the broader terror watch list, but have not offered an explanation as to why they did not.

Senior Homeland Security Department official, Caryn Wagner, told senators during an oversight hearing, “We have been able to harness the intelligence from the intelligence community to inform our instruments to keep people out at our borders, to make sure that the wrong people are not getting on airplanes at last points of departure and to make sure that people who shouldn’t get them are not receiving immigration benefits from the department.”

Among the most significant new standard is that a person no longer has to be considered only a threat to aviation to be placed on the no-fly list. People who are considered a threat to domestic or international security or who attended a terror training camp also are included, said a U.S. counterterrorism official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

As agencies complete the reviews of their files, the pace of growth is expected to slow, the counterterrorism official said.

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the government on behalf of Americans who believe they’re on the no-fly list and have not been able to travel by air for work or to see family.

“The news that the list is growing tells us that more people’s rights are being violated,” said Nusrat Choudhury, a staff attorney working for the ACLU’s national security project. “It’s a secret list, and the government puts people on it without any explanation. Citizens have been stranded abroad.”

“The government will not tell people whether they’re on the list or why they’re on it, making it impossible for people to defend themselves” Choudhury said.

“People who complain that they’re unfairly on the no-fly list can submit a letter to the Homeland Security Department, but the only way they’ll know if they’re still on the list is to try to fly again” she added.

According to former chief of the Terrorist Screening Operations center and now vice president with the Soufan Group, if a person is nominated to be on the no-fly list, but there is insufficient information to justify it, the Terrorist Screening Center downgrades the person to a different list.

“You can’t just say: ‘Here’s a name. Put him on the list.’ You’ve got to have articulable facts,” Reardon said.

NYPD Planning on Patrolling Streets With Unmanned Drones?

You’ve probably heard about the incredible effectiveness of military predator drones at killing terrorists, as well as civilians who are unlucky enough to live in or near war zones overseas, but did you know there are plans to deploy drones in the Big Apple to keep an eye on New Yorkers?

Surveillance cameras already watch over just about corner of the city’s most populous streets, but evidence points to the NYPD wanting to expand that watchful eye even more.

A website named Gay City News posted an e-mail it says it acquired through the Freedom of Information Act that is  purportedly from a detective in the NYPD counterterrorism division, asking the Federal Aviation Administration about the use of unmanned aerial vehicles as a law enforcement tool.

Drones are already being used by law enforcement in other parts of the country.

“We’re always looking at technology,” said NYPD Spokesman Paul Browne. “Drones aren’t that exotic anymore. Brookstone sells them. We’ve looked at them but haven’t tested or deployed any.”

Former NYPD officer Gary Weksler said drones make sense.

“Not only would it be a form of intelligence gathering to protect the public, it also in many respects removes the officers, who might be attempting to identify issues, from harm’s way,” Weksler said.

Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union issued a 16-page report citing the growth of the use of drones and the lack of laws protecting citizens from airborne intrusions.

Just the mere possibility that the city could be looking into the use of drone surveillance aircraft prompted one unknown astute New Yorker to post several official looking NYPD warning signs all over the city with messages like “Attention, authorized drone strike zone” and “Local statutes enforced by drone”

Given the city’s aggressive use of emerging technologies to stay one step ahead of terrorists, security experts say they’d be surprised if it does not pursue further use of drones. Small drone aircraft can cost as little as a few hundred dollars.

According to the New Yorker, those bogus NYPD warning signs were put up by an Iraq War veteran who operated Army drones during the war and objects to their use by civilian police.

What was that Ben Franklin said again? Something about sacrificing liberty for security?

New legislation would label America as a “battlefield” and allow indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens

The United States Senate will be voting this week on a bill that would label the entire country as a “battlefield,” allowing law enforcement duties to be handled by the military, giving them authority to detain any US citizen as a war criminal even coming into their own homes to perform arrests.

The latest provision, S. 1867, being considered for addition to The National Defense Authorization Act should be a wake up call to every American as our government continues to increasingly trample on our constitutional freedoms. If S. 1867 passes, lawmakers would have the legal right to keep even regular citizens detained indefinitely by their own military.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a supporter of the bill, has explicitly stated that the passing of S. 1867 would “basically say in law for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield”.

“The Senate is going to vote on whether Congress will give this president, and every future president, the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world,” said Chris Anders of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington office. “The power is so broad that even US citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself.”

American citizens and people picked up on American or Canadian or British streets being sent to military prisons indefinitely without even being charged with a crime. Really? Does anyone think this is a good idea? And why now?” asked Anders.

The Obama administration has threatened to veto the bill, but given their record of caving in to GOP pressure the President’s stance on the issue is hardly comforting.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) has been an outspoken opponent of the legislation, but needs the backing of others if he wants to keep Congress from enacting the provision.

“One section of these provisions, section 1031, would be interpreted as allowing the military to capture and indefinitely detain American citizens on US soil,” the Senator said in a speech last month. “Section 1031 essentially repeals the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 by authorizing the US military to perform law enforcement functions on American soil. That alone should alarm my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, but there are other problems with these provisions that must be resolved.”

The provision actually already passed in the House back in May, and only now is going before the Senator Justin Amash, a Republican representative from Cascade Township, was one of the five House Republicans that voted against it.

“It is destructive of our Constitution,” he writes on his Facebook page. It would“permit the federal government to indefinitely detain American citizens on American soil, without charge or trial, at the discretion of the president…The president should not have the authority to determine whether the Constitution applies to you, no matter what the allegations..Note that it does not preclude US citizens from being detained indefinitely, without charge or trial, it simply makes such detention discretionary.”

Amash added “Please urge your Senators to oppose these outrageous provisions.”

As a solution, Sen. Udall has offered a counter act, being dubbed the Udall Amendment, that would keep S. 1867 from its critical consequences and would instead require lawmakers to examine the necessity of detaining citizens domestically, and instead would make Congress consider whether any detention legislation is needed at all.

Here’s a suggestion. How about we stop trampling on the rights given to every American citizen that make this country so great, we can call it the Stop Trampling on the Right Given to Every American Citizen That Make This Country so Great Act. Has a nice ring to it.

Michigan police hacking people’s cell phones!?

Michigan’s police department has been using handheld gadgets called “Universal Forensic Extraction Devices”, for nearly three years now, that can snatch data from you’re mobile phone without you even knowing it. The data stealer can swipe everything from a phone in under two minutes, including text messages, photos, videos, passwords and even GPS data. Not even encrypted data or passwords can stop it.

According to The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan law enforcement have been using these UFEDs to secretly copy cell phone data during routine traffic stops. The Michigan State Police department has recently issued a statement to defend their use of this hacking technology. They say that the UFEDs are only used if a search warrant is obtained, or if the person gives consent to have his/her phone searched. Also, they state that only specialty teams use them on criminal cases, not during routine traffic stops.

Check out the video demonstration below for a look at how the device works:

Illegal search and seizure anyone?