First Amendment Issues

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Free Speech for Everyone? Really?

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By Glen Greenwald of The Intercept, January 9, 2015:


In Solidarity with a Free Press: Some More Blasphemous Cartoons

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Defending free speech and free press rights, which typically means defending the right to disseminate the very ideas society finds most repellent, has been one of my principal passions for the last 20 years: previously as a lawyer and now as a journalist. So I consider it positive when large numbers of people loudly invoke this principle, as has been happening over the last 48 hours in response to the horrific attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

Usually, defending free speech rights is much more of a lonely task. For instance, the day before the Paris murders, I wrote an article about multiple cases where Muslims are being prosecuted and even imprisoned by western governments for their online political speech – assaults that have provoked relatively little protest, including from those free speech champions who have been so vocal this week.

I”™ve previously covered cases where Muslims were imprisoned for many years in the U.S. for things like translating and posting “extremist” videos to the internet, writing scholarly articles in defense of Palestinian groups and expressing harsh criticism of Israel, and even including a Hezbollah channel in a cable package. That”™s all well beyond the numerous cases of jobs being lost or careers destroyed for expressing criticism of Israel or (much more dangerously and rarely) Judaism. I”™m hoping this week”™s celebration of free speech values will generate widespread opposition to all of these long-standing and growing infringements of core political rights in the west, not just some.

Read the whole article here.

Eavesdropping via Fake Cell Towers

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues, Fraud and Deception

Can you hear me now? In case you still thought you had personal privacy…


Fake Cell Towers Allow the NSA and Police to Keep Track of You
By Lauren Walker
Newsweek
September 5, 2014

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The Internet is abuzz with reports of mysterious devices sprinkled across America””many of them on military bases””that connect to your phone by mimicking cell phone towers and sucking up your data. There is little public information about these devices, but they are the new favorite toy of government agencies of all stripes; everyone from the National Security Agency to local police forces are using them.

These fake towers, known as “interceptors,” were discovered in July by users of the CryptoPhone500, one of the ultra-secure cell phones released after Edward Snowden”™s leaks about NSA snooping. The phone is essentially a Samsung Galaxy S3 customized with high-level encryption that costs around $3,500. While driving around the country, CryptoPhone users plotted on a map every time they connected to a nameless tower (standard towers run by wireless service providers like Verizon usually have names) and received an alert that the device had turned off their phone”™s encryption (allowing their messages to be read). Read the rest of this article here.

Cecily McMillan’s Awakening

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I Went From Grad School to Prison
As Told to Abigail Pesta
Cosmopolitan
August 12, 2014

This past spring, Cecily McMillan rode a bus across a bridge to Rikers Island, home of the notorious New York City jail. When the Occupy Wall Street activist was released nearly two months later, she had left her old self behind.

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I didn’t cry my first night in jail.

By the time I got through the 12 hours of intake “” the lines, the fingerprints, the strip search “” it was 4 a.m. In a dorm with 50 women, I lay on a cot smaller than a twin bed, with a mattress so thin, I could feel the cold metal beneath my back.

I didn’t feel much of anything emotionally, except a vague sense of resolution. At least I knew my fate now. I was a convicted felon.

I had spent two years awaiting a trial, accused of assaulting a policeman at an Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City in March 2012. As I remember it, the officer surprised me from behind, grabbing my right breast so forcefully, he lifted me off the ground. In that moment, my elbow met his face. (more…)

Have a Secret? Good Luck

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues, Legal Issues

Ever wonder what’s happening with all the data the NSA has collected on you?


New Snowden Leak: NSA Shares 850 Billion Metadata Records Via Search Portal
by Graham Cluley
Tripwire.com
August 27, 2014

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Some are starting to consider Edward Snowden as the NSA”™s old, boring uncle. His leaks grimly pass around secrets of the NSA: online surveillance disclosures, the MonsterMind program and privacy invasion of international governments. And still revelations about the NSA”™s classified activities continue to tumble out.

The latest? The National Security Agency is supplying data to two dozen US government agencies courtesy of a “Google-like” search engine designed to share 850 billion records about emails, cellphone locations, Internet chats and phone calls, according to classified documents provided to The Intercept by none other than Edward Snowden.

The tool, called ICREACH, includes millions of records on innocent US citizens (not accused of any wrongdoing), as well as private communications of foreigners. While a multitude of NSA programs have been exposed for collecting large data of communications, and the NSA has admitted sharing some of the collected information with domestic agencies, no one had a clue about the scoop and insights of its sharing. Read the rest of this article here.

John Seigenthaler, RIP

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Voices: Seigenthaler a champion of First Amendment
by Ken Paulson
Special for USA TODAY

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A lead pipe to the head will get your attention.

One day in 1961, Justice Department aide John Seigenthaler was brutally attacked with a pipe by Ku Klux Klansmen as he rushed to protect Freedom Riders arriving in Montgomery, Ala. The Klansmen left John in the street to die.

But John survived, going on to a rich career as a journalist and a passionate First Amendment advocate who would laugh about how Attorney General Bobby Kennedy thanked him for “using his head.” John died at 86 Friday morning in Nashville.

Read more here and here.

Create an NSA document

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Filed under: Creative Activism, First Amendment Issues

From Joe King: Leak your own NSA document, via Graham Cluley’s Security Newsletter, the site churns out a unique [fake] surveillance program when you visit.


The NSA Product Generator

Inspired by the recent dump of NSA’s TAO product catalog, containing weirdly-codenamed products beyond the wildest paranoid’s dreams. Each time you refresh the page, another document is generated.

nsaproductgenerator

Another demented project from @ternus

NSA Cracks Smartphone Security. Why Wear Clothes?

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The NSA Can Access Basically Everything On iOS, Android and Blackberry
by Lily Hay Newman
Gizmodo
August 8, 2013

ku-bigpic-200I guess we’re not even surprised at this point. Der Spiegel is reporting that internal NSA documents prove the agency’s widespread smartphone data access. And it’s pretty exhaustive. Spiegel found explicit mention of information access from iPhones, BlackBerry handsets, and devices running Android.

Everything from contact lists to texts and location tracking is available, and the NSA has set up teams to specialize in cracking each operating system. These teams also look for additional gains like the ability to monitor a user’s computer after an iPhone sync, and get access from there to even more iPhone features.

The news is problematic for RIM in particular, because the security of BlackBerry mail has always been a touted feature. A RIM representative made a statement to Der Spiegel that, “It is not for us to comment on media reports regarding alleged government surveillance of telecommunications traffic.”

Der Spiegel notes that the documents indicate specific, customized access on the part of the NSA, perhaps without company knowledge, rather than widespread smartphone surveillance. But at this point who knows. [Der Spiegel]

image: Gizmodo

Secure Email Service Shuts Down Preemptively to Elude Fed Prying

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Encryption App Silent Circle Shuts Down E-Mail Service ‘To Prevent Spying’
by Parmy Olson
Forbes.com
August 9, 2013

Updated with comments from co-founder Phil Zimmermann

Silent-Circle-200The business of protecting consumers from prying government eyes has suddenly become a pre-emptive one for Silent Circle. The communications encryption firm said Friday that it was shutting down its e-mail service to prevent spying, a day after competitor Lavabit suspended its core email service. Lavabit”™s founder had suggested in a letter to customers that he had been the subject of a U.S. government investigation and gag order.

Silent Circle, which has seen a 400% revenue jump in recent months as a result of the Snowden furore and concerns over government surveillance, does not rely solely on e-mail hosting as Lavabit does. It also encrypts phone calls, text messages and video conferencing with a suite of iOS and Android apps.

Only a small portion of its customers used Silent Mail, some of whom used it as their exclusive email provider “” at some point in the last 24 hours, many discovered their cloud-based emails had been suddenly deleted. (more…)

Email Service Provider Shuts Down to Avoid Violating Users’ Privacy

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Update from Forbes: Lavabit’s Ladar Levison: ‘If You Knew What I Know About Email, You Might Not Use It’


Lavabit, email service Snowden reportedly used, abruptly shuts down
by Xeni Jardin
boingboing.net
August 8, 2013

Screen-Shot-2013-08-08-at-3.03Remember when word circulated that Edward Snowden was using Lavabit, an email service that purports to provide better privacy and security for users than popular web-based free services like Gmail? Lavabit’s owner has shut down the service, and posted a message on the lavabit.com home page today about wanting to avoid “being complicit in crimes against the American people.”

According to the statement, it appears he rejected a US court order to cooperate with the government in spying on users.

The email service offered various security features to a claimed user base of 350,000, and is the first such firm to have publicly and transparently closed down, rather than cooperate with state surveillance programs. The email address Snowden (or someone sending emails on his behalf) is reported to have used to send invites to a press conference at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in mid-July was a Lavabit account.

Read the full message from Lavabit’s founder and operator Ladar Levison here.

Westboro Baptist Congregants Meet Human Wall of… Zombies

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Westboro Baptist loons run into protest wall””made of zombies?
by Howard Portnoy
Examiner.com
August 2, 2012

The Supreme Court may have greenlighted the hate-filled demonstrations by misguided adherents to the teachings of the Westboro Baptist Church, but the high court never said that counter-protests were not also covered by the First Amendment. Ever since the court handed down its controversial ruling, “human walls“ have become commonplace at military funerals””gestures meant to neutralize the church group”™s message of hate. In one widely reported example of the trend, the rock band Foo Fighters showed up in Kansas City in September of 2011 to “serenade” Westboro congregants.

Now one trend has meshed with another. KIRO-TV reports that last Friday, protesters assembling outside the Joint Base Lewis-McChord in DuPont, Wash., were met by””get ready for it””a wall of the living dead. (more…)

Cartoonist to Face Criminal Charges for Parodying Legislator?

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Moderator’s note: This won’t be the first time a satirist co-opted official letterhead to make a statement (see Joey Skaggs’ Brookyln Bridge Lottery Hoax, done in 1992), but it may be the last!!


Dane County DA considers charges against cartoonist who sent fake news
by Sandy Cullen
Wisconsin State Journal
March 14, 2012

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said Wednesday his office is considering whether to file a felony charge against a political cartoonist who reproduced the letterhead of state Rep. Steve Nass on a phony press release sent to a Madison newspaper.

Ozanne said Capitol Police have asked his office to determine whether Mike Konopacki of Madison should be charged with violating a state law that makes it a felony for someone who is not a public officer or public employee to act in an official capacity or to exercise any function of a public office.

The Class I felony is punishable by up to 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Ozanne said his office has the discretion to file a different felony or misdemeanor charge, or to not prosecute.

Konopacki, 60, said Wednesday he believes his parody “” which makes fun of Nass, a Republican from Whitewater, for his role in canceling an art exhibit related to last year’s protests at the state Capitol “” is protected political speech.

He said he sent the fake news release to the editorial page editor at The Capital Times, which posted an erroneous story on the paper’s website and on Capital Newspapers’ website, madison.com, on Feb. 25. It was removed a short while later after the paper learned the source document was a fabrication.

Konopacki, who specializes in labor issues, has drawn editorial cartoons for The Capital Times for many years on a freelance basis, the paper said in an online statement.

(more…)

Is There a Right to Lie?

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Is There a Right to Lie?
By William Bennett Turner, Op-Ed Contributor
The New York Times
February 19, 2012

Berkeley, Calif. Xavier Alvarez is a liar. Even the brief filed on his behalf in the United States Supreme Court says as much: “Xavier Alvarez lied.” It informs us that he has told tall tales about playing hockey for the Detroit Red Wings, being married to a Mexican starlet and rescuing the American ambassador during the Iranian hostage crisis. But as the brief reminds us, “none of those lies were crimes.”

Another of his falsehoods, however, did violate the law. In 2007, while introducing himself at a meeting of a California water board, he said that he was a retired Marine who had been awarded the Medal of Honor (both lies). He was quickly exposed as a phony and pilloried in the community and press as an “idiot” and the “ultimate slime.”

But his censure did not end there. The federal government prosecuted him under the Stolen Valor Act, which prohibits falsely claiming to have been awarded a military medal, with an enhanced penalty (up to a year in prison) for claiming to have received the Medal of Honor. Mr. Alvarez was convicted but appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which held that the act violated the First Amendment.

(more…)

Occupy the Truth: Whistleblowers Conference, Feb 17-19, UC Berkeley

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Joey Skaggs will be in Oakland for this open space Whistleblowers conference, February 17-19, 2012. Admission is free and open to the public.


From the conference website:

“There is no truth existing which I fear or would wish unknown to the whole world.” – Thomas Jefferson

Transparency needs your brain. Whistleblowers need your protection. Fresh Juice Party, Courage to Resist and Bradley Manning Support Network invite you to bring your ideas.

Please join journalists, former military personnel, academics, activists, policy makers, media experts, filmmakers and whistleblowers for an open discussion designed to encourage unexpected interdisciplinary alliances and action.

This will be a unique participant driven environment where we will co-create the agenda for the day. [It] will be a first of its kind activist/expert un-conference mix so expect to be surprised. Sharing, networking and creating new alliances will be central to providing strategies and support for whistleblowers.

Come and enjoy the freedom of discussion and mobility of an unconference where serious discussion interplays with an open space atmosphere of creativity and play.

Check the conference site for more information. Register at Event Brite & Check for updates on Facebook and Twitter @OccupyTruthCon #TruthCon


Toying with Authority

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Submitted by Deborah:


Doll ‘protesters’ present small problem for Russian police
by Miriam Elder
Guardian.co.uk
26 January 2012

Police in Siberian city ask prosecutors to investigate legality of protest involving display of toy figures holding miniature placards

Russian police don’t take kindly to opposition protesters – even if they’re 5cm high and made of plastic.

Police in the Siberian city of Barnaul have asked prosecutors to investigate the legality of a recent protest that saw dozens of small dolls – teddy bears, Lego men, South Park figurines – arranged to mimic a protest, complete with signs reading: “I’m for clean elections” and “A thief should sit in jail, not in the Kremlin”. (more…)

The Art of the Prank Supports SOPA/PIPA Resistance Day!

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From Ars Technica
January 18, 2012

Today is SOPA Resistance Day at Ars. Sites across the ‘Net, from reddit to the Internet Archive, from Wikipedia to Google, are protesting the excesses of the Stop Online Piracy Act. SOPA remains a flawed bill that treats piracy as an existential threat to the US economy and to a sacred class of rightsholders””and in doing so loses all perspective on appropriate remedies. The discussion is absolutely unbalanced.

Many sites have chosen to go dark (i.e., offline) today, a stance we respect””but it’s not the right path for us. Ars Technica has, for 14 years, tried to be an information resource, and the most appropriate response from Ars is to provide even more information on the legislation, how you can fight it, and what’s really at stake. (more…)