Va. Judge Orders Release of Veteran Detained Over Facebook Posts

Prince George County Circuit Judge W. Allan Sharrett ordered the release of former Marine  Brandon J. Raub, who was being held and forced to undergo psychiatric evaluation after making posts on his Facebook page calling into question the official story of 911 and alluding to an impending revolution.

Sharrett said that the involuntary commitment order issued by a magistrate against Raub was invalid because it contained no allegation or basis to hold him. Raub was released from the Salem Veterans Affairs Medical Center late Thursday and was on his way back to his home in the Richmond area, a Rutherford Institute spokeswoman said.

Raub served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was taken into custody Aug. 16 after being questioned by Chesterfield County police and federal agents about his Facebook posts. The FBI said the interview was prompted by complaints from people who read his posts.

“Brandon Raub was arrested with no warning, targeted for doing nothing more than speaking out against the government, detained against his will, and isolated from his family, friends and attorneys,” Rutherford Institute executive director John Whitehead said. “These are the kinds of things that take place in totalitarian societies. Today, at least, Judge Allan Sharrett proved that justice can still prevail in America.” The civil liberties organization represented the 26-year-old veteran.

He called Raub’s release a victory for the First Amendment.

“People a have right to go on Facebook or the Internet (and) say things that people might not agree with, “Whitehead added. “But that doesn’t mean they’re crazy or should be incarcerated for it.”


Former Marine Detained Over Facebook Posts About 911/Impending Revolution

According to Brandon Raub’s mother, the FBI, Secret Service and Chesterfield County PD came to their door, questioned her son about his Facebook posts, then handcuffed and took him to John Randolph Psychiatric Hospital in Hopewell, Va.

Raub’s mother said he returned a year ago from tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and did not suffer from PTSD.

The Chesterfield PD said that the situation “was an FBI matter and we were just there to assist them” but did not provide an official reason why Raub was detained.

Raub’s mother said that an FBI agent told her Raub was “arrested by the Chesterfield police department” because he “assaulted an officer and resisted arrest,” then asked her if Raub “was having any issues relating to people” and told her that “the threats he was making were terrorist in nature.”

When asked the Chesterfield PD said Raub has not been charged with resisting arrest and assaulting an officer.

The most recent posts by Brandon J Raub include “AND THEY WILL SAY HE SAID IT TO THE NSA FIRST.” on August 16, “Feelin like Pac all Eyes on me.” on August 15 and “The Revolution will come for me. Men will be at my door soon to pick me up to lead it. ;)” on August 14.

A post on August 12 said: “There has been an overwhelming amount of evil enacted and planned against you, your children, and your countrymen. It is great in scope. Your government evil. It is as simple as that. And the calvary is coming.”

Raub’s mother said he was told that he will see a judge on Monday but has not been told what he has been charged with and has not been read his rights.

Google Co-Founder Says Internet Freedom Facing Greatest Threat Ever

Google co-founder Sergey Brin said the principles of openness and universal access that underpinned the Internet’s creation are facing their greatest-ever threat, in an interview published by Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

Brin said factors such as the entertainment industry’s crack down on piracy, the rise of “restrictive” walled gardens such as Facebook and Apple and increasing efforts by governments to control access and communication by their citizens are major threats to the freedom of the Internet.

“There are very powerful forces that have lined up against the open Internet on all sides and around the world,” Brin was quoted as saying. “I am more worried than I have been in the past. It’s scary.”

He said he was concerned by the efforts of countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and Iran to censor the Internet.

Brin also believes that Facebook and Apple, which control users access to their own proprietary platforms, risk stifling innovation and balkanising the web.

Reddit Drafts “The Freedom of Internet Act”

Unsatisfied with Washington’s parade of corporate sell-out politicians, Reddit users have taken it upon themselves to draft legislation in place of SOPA and PIPA. Using a Google Doc open for anyone to help write and edit, they’ve come up with a draft version of “The Freedom of Internet Act”.

The act addresses some basic tenets they’ve set forth, but these proclamations are subject to change as this is a living document:

  • Censorship – No government of any form presiding over any land, people, or assets in any form within the United States of America shall pass any law, nor ratify any treaty, which imposes or administers any kind of censorship on the Internet, except content found to be illegal content in accordance with this act.
  • Culpability – Only the creator or uploader of data is responsible for whether that data is legal to upload, possess or make available to other users or information services.
  • Restrictions on the Internet – No federal union or sovereign state may pass unilateral restrictions on the Internet.
  • Content removal – Notice must be given to an administrator of the information system and to the uploader of the content within at least 30 days in advance of any deletion of data from any information system or service, or within 24 hours of the transfer of the data in question from publicly accessible storage to privately accessible storage.
  • Judicial proceedings – Anyone undergoing judicial proceedings based on this document must be judged in the courts of the nation where the alleged offence was committed.
  • Appropriate punishment – TBD
  • Rights of the user – Addresses right to anonymity, privacy, use of proxies, encryption without fear of discrimination or suspicion.
  • Liability and Settlement of Copyright Infringement Claim – All calculations related to this are to be carried out in a consumer, retail, individual level pricing upon which the production cost, marketing cost will not influence, capped at 200% of calculated damage.

The sub-Reddit page for FIA is located here, where it was created by a user named “RoyalwithCheese22

The act seeks to protect transformative works taken from copyrighted materials, such as mash-ups, memes and other types of content shared on sites like Reddit, YouTube, Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter. It also aims to address issues at an international level not just in the U.S.

1) If an individual resided in more than one country when committing violation(s) of this document, they shall be judged based on their physical location at the time of the offence.

2) The individual in question may demand extradition to their country of residence or citizenship, where they must then be tried for the listed offences. The court proceeding shall judge the crime as if the offence had been committed in his country of residence or citizenship during the event of the crime.

3) No person is to be extradited, deported or forced to leave, nor forcibly taken from a country for the need of legal proceedings. Any legal proceeding must be conducted in the country of which the crime was committed.

Civil Liberties Advocates Concerned About Dept. of Homeland Security Monitoring Social Networking Sites

Civil liberties advocates are sounding alarms over the practice of the Department of Homeland Security monitoring social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. They say the DHS may begin tracking public reaction to news events and reports that “reflect adversely” on the U.S. government.Documents obtained from the DHS through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit contained a February 2010 analyst handbook that touted a good example of “capturing public reaction” by monitoring Facebook and other sites for public sentiment about the possible transfer of Guantanamo detainees to a Michigan prison.

According to a senior DHS official the department does not monitor dissent or gather reports tracking citizens’ views. He said such reporting would not be useful in the types of emergencies to which officials need to respond. Officials also said that the analyst handbook is no longer in use and that the current version does not include the Guantanamo detainee reaction or similar examples.

With the rise of digital media, the DHS and other intelligence and law enforcement agencies have begun monitoring blogs and social media to anticipate trends and threats that affect homeland security, such as flu pandemics or terrorist plots.

Monitoring for “positive and negative reports” on U.S. agencies is not part of the department’s mission to “secure the nation,” said the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which obtained a copy of a contract and related material describing DHS’s social media monitoring through its FOIA suit.

According to the documents, the department’s Office of Operations Coordination and Planning awarded a contract in 2010 to Fairfax-based General Dynamics’ Advanced Information Systems. The company’s task is to provide media and social media monitoring support to Homeland Security’s National Operations Center (NOC) on a “24/7/365 basis” to enhance DHS’s “situational awareness, fusion and analysis and decision support” to senior leaders.

“The language in the documents makes it quite clear that they are looking for media reports that are critical of the agency and the U.S. government more broadly,” said Ginger McCall, director of EPIC’s open government program. “This is entirely outside of the bounds of the agency’s statutory duties, and it could have a substantial chilling effect on legitimate dissent and freedom of speech.”

John Cohen, a senior counterterrorism adviser to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, said that in his three years on the job, during which he has received every social media summary the NOC has produced, he has never seen a report summarizing negative views of DHS or any other governmental agency. Such reports, he said, “would not be the type of reporting I would consider helpful” in forming an operational response to some event or emergency.

“What I generally get are reports regarding hazmat spills, natural disasters, suspicious packages and street closures, active shooter situations, bomb threats,” Cohen said. “That is the type of information being pulled off social media.”

There is one sense in which reports of “adverse” publicity might be useful, he said: for example, alerting senior officials to the arrest of an off-duty officer for discharging his weapon.

The $11.3 million General Dynamics contract began in 2010 with a four-year renewal option. It states that the firm should provide daily social network summaries, weekly data reports and a monthly status report.The work is being done for DHS’s Office of Operations Coordination and Planning.

A year ago, the department released a report describing privacy guidelines on its social media monitoring program. For instance, information that can identify an individual may be collected if it “lends credibility” to the report. Officials said that would generally be provided to operational officials responding to an emergency.


Reddit Plans Jan. 18th Blackout in Protest of SOPA/PIPA

In a blog post, community news-sharing site Reddit announced that it will be shutting down normal operations on January 18 in protest of the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA).

From the blog post:

The freedom, innovation, and economic opportunity that the Internet enables is in jeopardy. Congress is considering legislation that will dramatically change your Internet experience and put an end to reddit and many other sites you use everyday. Internet experts, organizations, companies, entrepreneurs, legal experts, journalists, and individuals have repeatedly expressed how dangerous this bill is. If we do nothing, Congress will likely pass the Protect IP Act (in the Senate) or the Stop Online Piracy Act (in the House), and then the President will probably sign it into law. There are powerful forces trying to censor the Internet, and a few months ago many people thought this legislation would surely pass. However, there’s a new hope that we can defeat this dangerous legislation.

We’ve seen some amazing activism organized by redditors at /r/sopa and across the reddit community at large. You have made a difference in this fight; and as we near the next stage, and after much thought, talking with experts, and hearing the overwhelming voices from the reddit community, we have decided that we will be blacking out reddit on January 18th from 8am–8pm EST (1300–0100 UTC).

If passed, SOPA would allow the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright holders to seek court orders against foreign and domestic websites that enable or facilitate copyright infringement. Accused websites would be removed from search engine results, barred from online advertising networks, and blocked from payment processing networks. Sites like Facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube and Reddit could be crippled for hosting or linking user-uploaded content that potentially infringes on copyrights.

The bill would also make the unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content, such as a song or TV show, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

Reddit’s planned 12-hour blackout coincides with a congressional hearing on SOPA, at which tech and security leaders, including Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, will air their grievances toward SOPA and PIPA.

During the downtime, Reddit will stream the hearing and display a statement on why this legislation would mean the end of user-generated content sites.

Last month, Reddit user selfprodigy started a boycott against domain-hosting company GoDaddy, for supporting SOPA. Selfprodigy asked domain holders to transfer their websites to other hosting companies. The next day, GoDaddy withdrew its support for SOPA citing a spike in domain name transfers.

On Twitter, reactions to the Reddit blackout have been overwhelmingly positive. The hacker group Anonymous came out in support of Reddit, tweeting a link to the blog post announcing the blackout.

In December, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales considered a site-wide black out to demonstrate what the site might look like should this legislation pass. The blackout never happened, but Wales did withdraw Wikipedia and Wikia domains from GoDaddy as part of the December boycott.

Some suggest that the Reddit blackout could lead to more collective efforts against SOPA. According to VentureBeat, “there have been rumblings that Google, Twitter and Facebook are also planning a collective protest effort against SOPA and PIPA.”

Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Others Consider Blackout Day Protest of SOPA

Google co-founder Sergey Brin warned that the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act “would put us on a par with the most oppressive nations in the world.” Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, Twitter co-founders Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone, and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman argue that the bills give the Feds unacceptable “power to censor the Web.”

But these companies have yet to put action behind their words.

When the home pages of Google, Amazon, Facebook and their Internet allies go black with anti-censorship warnings that ask users to contact politicians about their votes on SOPA, you’ll know they mean business.

“There have been some serious discussions about that,” says Markham Erickson, who heads the NetCoalition trade association that counts Google, Amazon, eBay, and Yahoo as members. “It has never happened before.”

Web firms may be outspent tenfold on lobbyists, but have the advantage of direct relationships with users as opposed to the SOPA-backing Hollywood studios and record labels.

Protect IP and SOPA supposedly represents the latest effort from the Motion Picture Association of America, the RIAA, and their allies to counter what they see as rampant piracy on the Internet, especially offshore sites such as It would allow the Justice Department to obtain an order to be served on search engines, Internet providers, and other companies forcing them to make a suspected piratical Web site vanish, a kind of Internet death penalty.

There are early signs that the nuclear option is seriously being contemplated. Wikimedia (as in Wikipedia) called SOPA an “Internet Blacklist Bill.” Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has proposed an article page blackout as a way to put “maximum pressure on the U.S. government” in response to SOPA. Micro-blogging site Tumblr has generated 87,834 calls to Congress over SOPA.

A message appearing on the screens of people living in the mostly rural Texas district of SOPA author Lamar Smith, Hollywood’s favorite Republican, asking them to call or write and voice their displeasure, couldn’t possibly go unnoticed. If Tumblr could generate nearly 90,000 calls on its own, think of what companies with hundreds of millions of users could do.

If these Web companies believe what their executives say (PDF) about SOPA and Protect IP, they’ll let their users know what their elected representatives are contemplating. A Senate floor debate scheduled for January 24, 2012 would be an obvious starting point.

“The reason it hasn’t happened is because of the sensitivity,” says Erickson, “even when it’s a policy issue that benefits their users.” He adds: It may happen.”

It may, it may not but it would definitely change politics if it did.