Archive for the ‘eavesdropping’ category

Parallels between UK and US big-brotherism

June 15, 2008

As we celebrate the 793rd anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta today there are two news items that relate to to habeas corpus, the basic guarantee against arbitrary unlawful imprisonment– one in the UK and the other in the US.

In the UK we see Tory MP David Davis resigning over the Counter-Terrorism Bill that Labor PM Brown rammed through Parliament. This law allows detention for up to 42 days (six weeks) of British citizens without charges being brought and without any habeas corpus hearing being required. Davis noted that this is just the latest step in what he calls the “Big Brother” state and that it went a step too far infringing on the historical freedoms of British citizens. These liberties, he pointed out, can be traced back almost eight hundred years to the Magna Carta, which guaranteed the right of habeas corpus.

What most Americans don’t realize is that David Davis was not just an ordinary backbencher but the Shadow Home Secretary and in a new Tory government would be charged with enforcing the Counter-Terrorism Bill. With the latest polls showing a likely Tory victory at the next electoral opportunity, Davis was faced not only with a law with which he profoundly disagreed but also the looming task of administering that law as the government Minister in charge. (more…)


June 15 is Magna Carta Day

June 14, 2008

Happy birthday, Magna Carta!

On Sunday June 15, the Magna Carta will be 793 years old. This great historical document was signed by English King John on the field of Runnymede in 1215 under pressure from rebellious barons. The rights enshrined in the Magna Carta have been the most significant early influence on the extensive historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law today.

One of these constitutional protections which has its roots in the Magna Carta is the right to habeas corpus.

Habeas corpus was so important to the Founding Fathers that it was incorporated into the body of Article 1 of the Constitution itself, prior to addition of the Bill of Rights. The Founders did so because they understood that habeas corpus was essential to liberty and that liberty was the core value of the new nation. This consensus of the Founding Fathers of the necessity of having recourse to a writ of habeas corpus was based on their experience in dealing with an out-of-control monarch in the person of George III. (more…)

Ashland, OR unlikely site for terror investigation

June 4, 2008

Ashland, Oregon, the small-town home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Southern Oregon University, would seem to be an unlikely site of a global war on terrorism (GWOT) investigation. But that is exactly the situation for Soliman Hamd Al-Buthe, a former member of Saudi Arabia’s national basketball team and a government official in the city of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Al-Bluthe’s saga began in March 2004 when he received an urgent phone call from two lawyers in Washington D.C.

Most of the call concerned a growing confrontation between the U.S. government and the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in Ashland, Ore., the U.S. branch of a global Saudi Arabian charity organization under investigation for possible links to terrorism. Al-Buthe had been an advisor to Al-Haramain from 1995 to 2002 and was a member of the Oregon foundation’s board of directors. Just weeks prior to the call, the foundation — a respected fixture in the Ashland community run for years by an Iranian-American Muslim named Pete Seda — had been raided by U.S. law enforcement agents.

What Al-Bluthe did not know at the time was that the call was wiretapped by the U.S. government. (more…)

No boundaries for e-mail, internet snooping

January 14, 2008

Forget the Fourth Amendment. It’s going the way of the dodo bird. It’s way too quaint and old-fashioned for National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell.

As diarist MLDB puts it bluntly over at DailyKos:

Forget the Constitution.  To this crew “national security” and the constitution don’t mix.

Every e-mail, file transfer and internet would be subject of government surveillance if McConnell has his way.

McConnell is drawing up plans for cyberspace spying that would make the current debate on warrantless wiretaps look like a “walk in the park,” according to an interview published in the New Yorker‘s print edition today. (more…)

Followership from Barack and Hillary

October 24, 2007

Me too! Me too! seems the be the message from the Clinton and Obama campaigns in response to Chris Dodd’s principled stand on FISA — Dodd stepped up to the plate right out of the gate to oppose the FISA compromise (read:  giveaway to the telecoms).   Plus there were immediate statements from Wyden, Feingold and Biden.  Now we have two more presidential candidates deciding that they had better get on board because Chris Dodd is getting favorable press on this.  This is not spine.  This is not leadership.  This is just a rush to not look bad on this issue from people who say they want to be the leader/president of this country.

Look at the statements from the Clinton and Obama campaigns below.  Notice that Hillary gives herself plenty of wiggle room to change her position and support the bill if she gets “additional information”.   Pretty lame, if you ask me.

Chris Dodd may be trailing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the polls, but he’s leading them when it comes to standing up against retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.

When members of the Senate Intelligence Committee cut a deal with the Bush administration and approved retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that helped the government spy on their customers, Dodd said pretty immediately that he’d put a hold on the bill, then said subsequently that he’d filibuster the bill if the Senate votes to overcome his hold.

That was last week. On Tuesday, in what appears to be a response to a push from MoveOn and others, Barack Obama’s campaign put out a statement saying that if the bill containing immunity for the telecom companies comes to the floor in its present form, Obama “would support a filibuster of it.”

Shortly thereafter, Clinton told reporters on a conference call that while she hasn’t seen the legislation yet, “as matters stand now, I could not support it and I would support a filibuster absent additional information coming forth that would convince me differently.”

Followership, not leadership is what we are seeing from these two supposedly top-tier presidential candidates.  Not much spine but perhaps some cartilage forming.

Net neutrality and the money trail

October 22, 2007

It was just revealed that Comcast, one of the largest ISP’s, is blocking some kinds of content, namely, BitTorrent file sharing. The company claims that they are just “managing” their network for the benefit of all users but this kind of discrimination against a particular type of content runs counter to the principle of net neutrality, a standard that has been part of the internet since its inception.

Take a look at this article in the Globe and Mail (UK). The key point is that Comcast has not been even acknowledging that they are doing this so there has no way to complain about problems.

U.S. ISP blocking BitTorrent users

Associated Press

NEW YORK — Comcast Corp. actively interferes with attempts by some of its high-speed Internet subscribers to share files online, a move that runs counter to the tradition of treating all types of Net traffic equally.

The interference, which The Associated Press confirmed through nationwide tests, is the most drastic example yet of data discrimination by a U.S. Internet service provider. It involves company computers masquerading as those of its users. (more…)

Spine and FISA

October 21, 2007

There is a lot of talk these days about Dems in Congress lacking backbone. But I’ve recently come across several examples of several who are demonstrating vertebrate behavior vis-a-vis the Bush administration.

First, there is my own Senator Ron Wyden. Despite the horrible cave-in of the Dem leadership on important issues concerning the so-called “compromise” on FISA. the senior Senator from Oregon managed to insert an amendment into the FISA bill that would protect the rights of Americans traveling or living abroad. He makes the legitimate point that our privacy rights do not stop at our shores but are carried with us wherever we go.

Wyden is a member of the Senate Intelligence committee and his word should carry weight with is colleagues. The handwringing “leaders” are warning that this provision will cause the entire bill to be vetoed. I say, so what? Without such protections of citizen’s rights overseas (and perhaps without giving a free pass to the telecoms) the bill may be a toothless wonder anyway. You can find more about Wyden’s smooth moves on FISA at blueoregon. It is interesting to note that there is another Senator joining Wyden in his dissent — Russ Feingold, the independent-minded former presidential candidate from Wisconsin.

Wyden: You keep your rights when you go overseas

From his perch on the Intelligence Committee, Senator Ron Wyden continues to press the Bush Administration on warrantless wiretapping – even though the majority Democrats have been pushing for a “compromise” reform bill. (more…)