Tag Archives: Court

Colorado approves retroactive reversal of marijuana convictions

Colorado approves retroactive reversal of marijuana convictions Colorado approves retroactive reversal of marijuana convictions

The Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled that residents there convicted of marijuana possession before recreational weed was legalized may be eligible to have those decisions overturned.
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As of January 1, 2014, adults from Colorado are legally allowed to buy up to one ounce of marijuana under the state Constitution’s recently passed Amendment 64. But with upwards of 9,000 marijuana possession cases being prosecuted each year before then, a huge chunk of the state’s population is now left wondering how the newly enacted law impacts previously decided court rulings.

Earlier this month on March 13, the three judges of the state’s appeals panel said that part of an earlier decision in a case against a Colorado woman sentenced in 2011 for marijuana possession should be vacated.

In making their decision, the appellate court wrote that there could be post-conviction relief if “there has been significant change in the law.”

“Amendment 64, by decriminalizing the personal use or possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, meets the statutory requirement for ‘a significant change in the law’ and eliminates and thus mitigates the penalties for persons convicted of engaging in such conduct,” the judges opined.

A spokesperson for Colorado Attorney General John Suthers has since told NPR that the office will likely appeal the court’s latest ruling, but if it stands then it will set the stage for a substantial number of residents to have their convictions reversed.

This month’s ruling doesn’t affect everyone, though. The appeals court weighed in particularly on the case of Brandi Jessica Russell, a Colorado woman who was sentenced in August 2011, to serve two concurrent four-year terms of supervised probation, 192 hours of community service and a suspended sentence of 90 days in jail after being convicted of possessing a small amount of marijuana, marijuana concentrate and methamphetamine.

Attorneys for Russell filed an appeal shortly after, but it wasn’t heard by the court system until after Amendment 64 went into effect on December 10, 2012. Since then lawmakers have allowed for the first legal, recreational marijuana dispensaries in the United States to operate across Colorado, and the state is expected to reap millions of dollars in taxes from those sales by the end of the year. And because Russell’s case was still up in the air at that point, the appeals court said her conviction should be tossed.

“Defendant contends that Amendment 64 should be applied retroactively and that her convictions for possession of marijuana concentrate and possession of less than one ounce of marijuana should be vacated. We agree,” the court wrote.

Brian Emeson, an attorney for Russell, told the Denver Post that “It’s a decision that certainly represents the will of the citizens of this state.”

Brian Vicente, a pro-marijuana activist who helped write Amendment 64, told the Associated Press that the ruling was a “huge victory” that could affect hundreds of people who were sentenced to jail terms for petty marijuana offenses in recent years and sought appeal.

Critics of the decision fear that, if not fought, it could open the door for citizens to challenge other convictions unrelated to the drug.

“Well-established retroactivity law in Colorado indicates that statutory changes are prospective only unless the General Assembly or the voters clearly indicted an intent to require such retroactive application,” he said in a statement earlier this month.

Source: RT

Florida woman forced to use city utilities instead of private solar panels, rainwater

Florida woman forced to use city utilities instead of private solar panels rainwater Florida woman forced to use city utilities instead of private solar panels, rainwater

A Cape Coral, Florida woman living “off the grid” was ordered last week by a magistrate to hook up to utilities to comply with city codes or risk eviction from her home.
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Special Magistrate Harold S. Eskin ruled Thursday that Robin Speronis violated city codes by refusing to connect to the Cape Coral’s water system. Eskin ordered Speronis to pay for water service, adding that her sewer access would be capped until she did, The News-Press reported.

“I am in compliance,” Speronis told the News-Press. “I’m in compliance of living … you may have to hook-up, but you don’t have to use it. Well, what’s the point?”

In addition, her alternative source of energy must be approved by the city, Eskin ruled. The city contends that using rainwater and solar energy violates the International Property Maintenance Code, which is used in many US and Canadian communities. It “states that properties are unsafe to live in if they do not have electricity and running water,” according to Off The Grid News, though Speronis has both electricity and water.

florida off grid utilities Florida woman forced to use city utilities instead of private solar panels, rainwater

Eskin also pointed out that several liens were placed on her home given Speronis had used drains but without paying water bills.

“This resident provided testimony at the code compliance hearing that she has been living in the home for the past year and using the city’s wastewater system without paying for the service,” said Connie Barron, a spokeswoman for Cape Coral.

Yet the Magistrate said the city abused its authority by not giving Speronis proper notice of the supposed violations. Speronis was given an eviction notice in November.

City spokeswoman Barron said the sewer would have been capped sooner, but the city decided to wait for the code hearing. The city had actually overlooked Speronis’ setup until she did an interview with a local television station regarding her living arrangements.

Eskin did admit, though, that the city’s code may be obsolete.

“Reasonableness and code requirements don’t always go hand-in-hand … given societal and technical changes (that) requires review of code ordinances,” said Eskin, who actually dropped two of three counts against Speronis.

Speronis’ attorney posited that there’s a conflict in the city’s code, given Speronis has been ordered to hook up to the water system despite city officials’ admittance that she does not have to use it.

“It was a mental fistfight,” Speronis’ attorney Todd Allen said of Eskin’s review of the case. “There’s an inherent conflict in the code.”

For her part, Speronis said she does not intend to hook up to the city’s water system, vowing to appeal the Magistrate’s ruling.

“I know how to live off the grid completely and in a sanitary way,” Speronis said in response to the city’s action, according to The News-Press. “That’s what seven months living in the woods taught me. I do have an alternative toilet from my days of living in the woods.”

The Cape Coral resident said she will dispose of waste just as dog owners do for pets. She also plans to collect wastewater in containers for use in her garden.

Speronis already collects rainwater for bathing and other uses, all while generating electricity with solar panels.

“What happens in the courtroom is much less important than touching people’s hearts and minds,” she told Off The Grid News. “I think that we are continuing to be successful in doing just that and I am so pleased — there is hope! [Friday] morning, as I took my two hour walk, there was a young man, unknown to me, who drove by me, tooted his horn and said, ‘Robin, congratulations on your victory yesterday, keep up the fight and God bless you.’ That is beautiful.”

Source: RT

Freedom to discriminate? Controversial Arizona bill takes step toward becoming law

Freedom to discriminate Freedom to discriminate? Controversial Arizona bill takes step toward becoming law

The Arizona state Senate approved legislation Wednesday permitting businesses in the state to refuse service to potential customers based on an owner’s religious beliefs, infuriating equal rights advocates who claim the bill legalizes LGBT discrimination.
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The bill, known officially as Senate Bill 1062, was approved by the Republican-controlled Senate, which voted along strict party lines. State Democrats proposed eight amendments to the bill in an attempt to stop what they decried as discrimination against the gay and lesbian community, but each of those efforts failed.

The most polarizing part of the bill reads, in part:

“’Exercise of religion’ means the practice or observance of religion, including the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.”

State Senator Steve Yarbrough, the bill’s sponsor, said he has been pressing for the bill because of a New Mexico state Supreme Court ruling that allowed a gay couple to sue a photographer for refusing to take pictures at their wedding.

The bill’s opponents say that Yarbrough and other social conservatives are trying to portray themselves as martyrs as they aim to pass a vague law that would leave widespread discrimination unchecked.

The Arizona Republic reported that the bill, which has a counterpart in the state House of Representatives known as HB 2153, was written by the conservative Center for Arizona Policy and Alliance Defending Freedom – a non-profit Christian lobby group that dedicates funding to the pro-life movement and has long opposed marriage equality.

The bill now heads to the desk of Republican Governor Jan Brewer. She has five days to sign or veto the bill. If she chooses to ignore it, it will automatically become law. While the governor has given little indication about which way she is leaning, Brewer has forged her reputation as a conservative on similar hot button social issues like immigration and abortion.

EJ Montini, a columnist with the Arizona Republic, said that SB 1062 sets a dangerous precedent for people of various backgrounds.

Essentially what it would do is allow people to refuse service to people who may be gay, who may be of certain religious affiliations – we don’t know, there could be a lot of exposure in this particular bill- only because they have a particular religious belief,” he said. “We really have no issue like this in Arizona and this is extremists in the legislature essentially appeasing zealots out in the community…It is the most ungodly way to view religious freedom.”

While Arizona would be the first state in the US to approve such a bill, other right-leaning states including Idaho, South Dakota, and Kansas have considered similar legislation. A number of the bills have come in response to the federal government’s recent announcement that same-sex couples will be given the same treatment as heterosexual couples under current tax law.

Source: RT

NSA plans to expand collection of American phone metadata

NSA plans to expand collection of American phone metadata1 NSA plans to expand collection of American phone metadata

Lawsuits waged at the United States government over the National Security Agency’s controversial phone data collection program may actually cause the NSA to hold onto information even longer, a new report reveals.
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A handful of lawsuits have been filed against the US government and the administration of President Barack Obama since last June when former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA has been routinely compelling the nation’s telecommunications companies for the metadatapertaining to millions of Americans. Pres. Obama has since submitted to calls for reforming that program, and even instructed Congress recently to find an alternative approach to storing metadata. According to the Wall Street Journal, however, the NSA may have to hold onto that data for a little bit longer.

On Wednesday this week, WSJ journalists Devlin Barrett and Siobhan Gorman wrote that that the lawsuits filed against the Obama administration over the NSA program may cause some rather unintended consequences to occur. Because the NSA may have to argue those cases in court, they wrote, any intelligence it collected that pertains to the plaintiffs may have to be retained indefinitely pending trial.

Currently, the NSA is obligated to purge metadata from its systems after about five years. Speaking to the Journal, one official said on condition of anonymity that those records are removed from the database about twice a year.

But because those records may become evidence in the lawsuits, the paper alleged, the NSA may be forced to postpone a data purge until after the federal courts consider the cases against the bulk metadata collection program.

“A particular concern, according to one official, is that the older records may give certain parties legal standing to pursue their cases, and that deleting the data could erase evidence that the phone records of those individuals or groups were swept up in the data dragnet,” Barrett and Gorman wrote.

An attorney with one of those plaintiffs that have sued the administration over the NSA program — Patrick Tommey of the American Civil Liberties Union — told the Journal that “It’s difficult to understand why the government would consider taking this position, when the relief we’ve requested in the lawsuit is a purge of our data.”

But Cindy Cohn, a lawyer and legal director for co-plaintiffs at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, acknowledged to the paper, “If they’re destroying evidence, that would be a crime.”

Both the ACLU and EFF filed lawsuits against the administration within days of Mr. Snowden’s first major NSA revelation last June. The EFF has been fighting against the NSA’s alleged spy programs since 2008 when it challenged the government’s “illegal and unconstitutional program of dragnet communications surveillance” on behalf of a former AT&T customer. When Snowden’s early June leak showed that telephone lines administered by competitor Verizon were being sent to the NSA, though, the ACLU again filed suit.

“As an organization that advocates for and litigates to defend the civil liberties of society’s most vulnerable, the staff at the ACLU naturally use the phone — a lot — to talk about sensitive and confidential topics with clients, legislators, whistleblowers and ACLU members,”ACLU legal fellow Brett Kaufman wrote when the suit was filed. “And since the ACLU is a VBNS [Verizon Business Network Services] customer, we were immediately confronted with the harmful impact that such broad surveillance would have on our legal and advocacy work.”

After the Verizon revelation, the EFF’s Cohn told the Washington Post that the NSA leaks had been a“tremendous boon” to previously filed legal challenges. Speaking to the Journal this week, though, she said the issue should have been brought before the courts long ago.

“I think they’re looking for any way to throw rocks at the litigation,” she said. “To the extent this is a serious concern, we should have had this discussion in 2008.”

Source: RT

NSA official charged in brutal death of adopted son

NSA official charged in brutal death of adopted son NSA official charged in brutal death of adopted son

An intelligence official at the National Security Agency has been charged with first-degree murder and child abuse after his three-year-old adopted son died of multiple blunt force injuries.
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Brian Patrick O’Callaghan, chief of the NSA’s Korea division, was arrested at work on Feb. 16, according to WUSA. O’Callaghan, 36, of Damascus, Maryland, is being held without bail for the death of Hyunsu O’Callaghan, who died on February 3.

According to court documents, O’Callaghan brought an unresponsive Hyunsu to a Germantown, Maryland emergency room on Feb. 1. Hyunsu was transported to the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC, where medical doctors told police that the boy’s injuries included hemorrhaging of the brain. In all, the injuries indicated that Hyunsu had been recently beaten, medical personnel believed.

An autopsy found that the cause of death was multiple blunt impact injuries. Hyunsu’s skull was fractured, according to court documents. Doctors also reported many contusions all over the boy’s body and evidence of trauma on his scrotum.

Brian was the sole caretaker of the boy from Jan. 31 to Feb. 1, as his wife Jennifer was out of town. The couple adopted Hyunsu from South Korea, and he had been in the US since October 2013. Brian told police that the boy bonded with his mother, but that he had yet to develop much of a relationship with him. The couple has a seven-year-old biological son, Aiden.

Brian O’Callaghan could not explain the injuries at the time, according to WUSA. But upon investigation, Brian told police that on Jan. 31, Hyunsu slipped in the shower, falling and hitting his shoulder in the bathtub. Brian said he comforted Hyunsu and put him to bed.

The next day, Feb. 1, Brian said he took Hyunsu and Aiden to the park and to a fast food restaurant for lunch. He told police he put Hyunsu down for a nap around 2 p.m. EST. When he went to check on him two hours later, Brian found a pink-colored fluid or stain on the bed and mucus oozing from his nose. Brian told police he changed the sheets and wiped Hyunsu’s nose, though the boy did not wake up.

Then around 5 p.m., Brian again checked on the boy only to find much more mucus coming from his nose. When he picked up Hyunsu, the child began to vomit, Brian told police.

Charging papers say Brian told police that he took off Hyunsu’s clothes and washed him before contacting his wife, who told Brian to take the boy to the hospital, which he did.

In Montgomery District Court on Tuesday, during the first hearing in the case, Assistant State’s Attorney Donna Fenton listed the boy’s many injuries for Judge William Simmons.

“An absolutely horrific crime on an absolutely innocent young victim,” said Fenton, according to The Washington Post. “Basically this child was beaten to death from head to toe.”

Brian’s attorney, Steven McCool, described the death as “a tragedy, not a crime,” according to the Post.

“[O'Callaghan] has the unwavering support of his family, they know he is incapable of committing the crimes alleged,” McCool said Tuesday.

Brian’s wife, his parents, and his in-laws came to the hearing.

“I find it impossible to believe that he’s been indicted for murder because he’s worked so hard to get this baby,” William Rose, Brian’s grandfather, told the Post. “He was so loving with him. He’s been so wonderful with his other child. I’ve never seen him do anything that would make me believe he is capable of that.”

Brian was a decorated US Marine, serving in the Marine Reserves from 1997 to 2004 as an artillery cannoneer. He saw deployments to Kosovo and El Salvador, and was involved in operations during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 – specifically in Al-Wasit Province, Al Nasiriyah, and Al Kut, according to D.C. Crime Stories.

Source: RT

Nuclear site whistleblower fired after complaining about safety conditions

Nuclear site whistleblower fired after complaining about safety conditions Nuclear site whistleblower fired after complaining about safety conditions

The termination of a safety manager from a Washington state nuclear facility this week marks the second time in four months that a whistleblower was fired from there after speaking out.
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Donna Busche, 50, was fired Tuesday morning by URS Corp, a federal subcontractor hired by the United States government to build a $12.3 billion plant that will make glass from the waste being held at the old Department of Energy-owned Hanford Nuclear Reservation in the southeastern part of the state. Construction of the plant is currently on hold because of safety concerns, and the facility has been previously referred to as the most-polluted nuclear weapons production site in the US.

Busche’s termination this week comes nearly five years after she first started working at the plant. Most recently she was employed there as a manager of environmental and nuclear safety at the facility’s construction site, and directed a staff of 140 engineers, scientists and technicians, according to the Los Angeles Times, often raising concerns about safety issues at Hanford during her half-decade tenure. Now she says her willingness to speak honestly about her work there is what got her into trouble.

URS says they had cause to terminate Busche, and told her it was due to “unprofessional conduct.” She is already speaking out about the matter, though, and says she lost her job because her employer wanted to retaliate in response to comments she made publically about the plant in the past.

Busche has been vocal for years about conditions at Hanford. In October 2010 she testified before the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, an independent federal agency, and made remarks about Hanford contrary to those offered by her superiors at the Department of Energy. She later said she was “openly admonished by former DOE Assistant Secretary Inés Triay for her testimony,” and the following year filed a complaint of discrimination with the Department of Labor alleging her employer retaliated against her for reporting problems at Hanford. The Labor Department is currently considering that complaint, while the Department of Energy has been tasked with investigating the safety claims made by Busche before her termination.

Walter Tamosaitis, a colleague of Busche’s who also raised safety concerns about the plant, was fired last October from URS after 44 years of employment. On Tuesday, Busche told the Associated Pressthat she has expected for a month now that she would be the next to go.

We raised technical issues and have received harassment, retaliation. The fact that he was terminated, it sent a resounding message to me, right? And heightened my sense of awareness that I was probably next,” she told CBS News last year after her co-worker was removed from the job.

Right now I will take a deep breath, file for unemployment and start another lawsuit for wrongful termination,” she added this week to the AP.

According to URS, however, they were in the right to fire Busche this week. “We do not agree with her assertions that she suffered retaliation or was otherwise treated unfairly,” the company said in a statement to the AP, adding Busche was terminated for reasons unrelated to the safety concerns. “Ms. Busche’s allegations will not withstand scrutiny,” the company said.

URS gave me no reason for my termination other than ‘unprofessional conduct.’ They gave me no documentation. They gave me no explanation,” Busche told CBS News.

Now she says the contractor’s actions are causing a chilling effect among other URS workers who are worried about speaking up.

One of my previous subordinates says that they’re actually afraid of getting fired for doing their job,” Busche told CBS.

Nuclear site whistleblower fired after complaining about safety conditions 2 Nuclear site whistleblower fired after complaining about safety conditions

 

When CBS covered a waste leak at Hanford last year, they reported that the federal government spends around $2 billion annually on cleaning up the nuclear site — or about one-third of what the country spends on its entire nuclear cleanup operations.

Source: RT

‘Reckless & unlawful’: Assange calls for probe into NSA ‘manhunt’ on WikiLeaks

Assange NSA manhunt wikileaks ‘Reckless & unlawful’: Assange calls for probe into NSA ‘manhunt’ on WikiLeaks

Julian Assange has called on the White House to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate NSA spying on WikiLeaks. Secret documents have revealed how the NSA spied on WikiLeaks and its followers, seeking to classify it as “a malicious foreign actor.”
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In its latest release of US government documents, WikiLeaks has accused the National Security Agency of tracking its members and followers. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has called the NSA’s espionage program “reckless and illegal” and has demanded Washington open an investigation into the claims.

“News that the NSA planned these operations at the level of its Office of the General Counsel is especially troubling,” Assange said in a statement on WikiLeaks’ website. “Today, we call on the White House to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the extent of the NSA’s criminal activity against the media, including WikiLeaks, its staff, its associates and its supporters.” 

The NSA went to great lengths in an attempt to justify its surveillance. According to 2011 documents leaked by Edward Snowden to The Intercept, the agency was considering classifying WikiLeaks as a“malicious foreign actor” which would have given the NSA more extensive surveillance powers. Moreover, Julian Assange was put on a so-called “manhunting” target list along with suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists.

The government entry into the “Manhunting Timeline” in 2010 describes the program as part of “an international effort to focus the legal element of national power upon non-state actor Assange, and the human network that supports WikiLeaks.”

The documents also note that the NSA considered classifying the torrent website Pirate Bay as a“malicious foreign actor.” The documents are inconclusive as to whether the site was finally classified as such, but classification would have meant the NSA gathered information on anyone – including American citizens – communicating with the organization for any reason.

The NSA was not alone in its sweeping espionage on the whistleblowing organization. It also enlisted its allies in the Five Eyes spying network (UK, New Zealand, Australia and Canada) as well as other nations. In documents dating back from August 2010, the US urged 10 other countries with forces in Afghanistan to consider pressing criminal charges against Julian Assange - “founder of the rogue WikiLeaks internet website and responsible for the unauthorized publication of over 70,000 classified documents covering the war in Afghanistan.”

 

 

The documents show the UK’s spy agency, the GCHQ played a significant role in monitoring the visitors to the WikiLeaks site. A leaked PowerPoint presentation details a program – created by Britain’s GCHQ and distributed amongst the Five Eyes in 2012 – that was especially designed to keep an eye on the site’s visitors. 

As part of the program – dubbed “Anti-crisis girl” in the documents – the GCHQ hauled in massive amounts of data from phone networks, internet cables and satellites.‘No respect for the rule of law’
The new revelations prompted immediate reaction from Julian Assange who decried both the NSA and the GCHQ for acting with total impunity. 

“The NSA and its UK accomplices show no respect for the rule of law,”
 he said in a statement on WikiLeaks’ site. “But there is a cost to conducting illicit actions against a media organization.”

WikiLeaks’ lawyer Judge Baltasar Garzon is now preparing an appropriate response to the new information and the organization has pledged that those responsible will be brought to justice. Garzon said the new documents are a testament to the fact the repression facing WikiLeaks is still very much alive. 

“The paradox is that Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks organization are being treated as a threat instead of what they are: a journalist and a media organization that are exercising their fundamental right to receive and impart information in its original form, free from omission and censorship, free from partisan interests, free from economic or political pressure,” he told the Intercept. 

Both the NSA and the GCHQ have so far refrained on commenting on the new claims from WikiLeaks.

Clapper admits NSA should have been ‘transparent from the outset’ on surveillance

james clapper nsa Clapper admits NSA should have been ‘transparent from the outset’ on surveillance

The Director of National Intelligence has admitted that, in hindsight, the US intelligence community would have been smarter to disclose some details about how telephone records belonging to millions of Americans have been collected for years.
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Perhaps more than any other Obama administration official, James Clapper has been the target of the most criticism, sarcasm, and outright fury since Edward Snowden leaked a trove of classified National Security Agency documents. He has staunchly defended the government’s interpretation of section 215 of the Patriot Act, under which it argues that secret collection of phone data is legal.

Now, in an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, Clapper appears to have admitted that many of the problems currently plaguing intelligence community are self-inflicted and could have been avoided.

I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will,” Clapper said Monday. “Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11 – which is the genesis of the 215 program – and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards…We wouldn’t have had the problem we had.”

The director went on to say that the Snowden leaks has been a painful learning experience, adding that the ongoing public debate about security vs. privacy would not be going on had the government been forthright with the American people after the terrorist attacks on September 11.

What did us in here, what worked against us was this shocking revelation,” he said. “I don’t think it would be of any greater concern to most Americans than fingerprints. Well people kind of accept that because they know about it. But had we been transparent about it and say here’s one more thing we have to do as citizens for the common good, just like we have to go to airports two hours early and take our shoes off, all the other things we do for the common good, this is one more thing.”

Clapper was a prominent target of critics of domestic surveillance and the press at large because of his claim at a congressional hearing months before the Snowden leak that the government does not collect information on millions of Americans. The response to that question, posed by longtime NSA opponent Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore), has led legislators and privacy advocates calling on Obama to fire Clapper and reform the surveillance apparatus.

Since his embarrassing misstep was first revealed Clapper has made public scores of documents and opinions written by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has consistently authorized the phone collection program. He told The Daily Beast those pages are proof that Section 215 is not an unchecked imposition on Americans’ civil liberties.

For me it was not some massive assault on civil liberties and privacy because of what we actually do and the safeguards that are put on this,” he said. “To guard against perhaps these days a low probability but a very (high) impact thing if it happens…I buy fire insurance ever since I retired, the wife and I bought a house out here and we buy fire insurance every years. Never had a fire. But I am not gonna quit buying my fire insurance, same kind of thing.”

Clapper’s admission Monday that national security officials would have been better served to be more open about domestic snooping was welcomed by his usual critics. Ben Wizner, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project who also serves as legal counsel to Edward Snowden, said the director’s comments are fair.

If Clapper is suggesting that the American people should have been consulted before the NSA engaged in a mass phone call tracking program, I empathetically agree,” he told the Daily Beast. “Whether we would have consented to that at the time will never be known, we are now having a debate in Congress and in the courts that we should have had then.”

As for why Clapper told a congressional hearing that the NSA was not collecting data on Americans, the intel chief says he “misunderstood” the question.

Source: RT

Father trying to stop family fight beaten to death by Oklahoma cops

father beaten by cop after trying to breakup family fight Father trying to stop family fight beaten to death by Oklahoma cops

A Valentine’s Day outing turned tragic for one Oklahoma family who claims five police officers beat their father to death during a confrontation outside a local movie theater.
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The death is currently under investigation, and three police officers have been placed on administrative leave as the probe unfolds.

The incident occurred February 14 in Moore, Oklahoma, when an argument erupted between Nair Rodriguez and her daughter Lunahi. Nair slapped her daughter during the dispute and ended up leaving the theater. When Luis Rodriguez chased after his wife in a bid to stop her, law enforcement officials intervened and asked for his identification.

According to NewsOK, police claim that Luis Rodriguez attempted to fight with police and that led to a physical altercation. Nair and Lunahi, however, told local media outlet News9 that allegation is false, and that Luis simply tried to bypass officers to keep his wife from driving off in anger.

As the confrontation escalated, five police officers allegedly beat Luis Rodriguez beyond recognition, a situation captured on a video by Nair’s cell phone.

“They jumped on him like he was some kind of killer or drug dealer and beat him up,” Lunahi Rodriguez said to NewsOK. “He never fought the officers, they beat him on the head and that’s how he lost his breath.”

“When they flipped him over you could see all the blood on his face, it was, he was disfigured, you couldn’t recognize him,” she added to News9.

Although paramedics were already at the scene responding to a separate incident, Luis Rodriguez could not be revived. According to Nair Rodriguez, it was clear her husband had died as soon as the beating was over.

“I saw him. His [motionless] body when people carry it to the stretcher. I knew that he was dead,” she said.

Afterwards, police asked Nair what happened and she said her husband was just trying to break up a fight between her and her daughter.

According to a spokesman for the Moore Police Department, police confiscated Nair Rodriguez’s phone as evidence, though it’s unclear whether or not they’ve watched the video yet.

The Rodriguez family said it plans to hire an attorney and take legal action.

Source: RT

Surveillance companies want Utah to stop enforcing privacy-protection law

Surveillance companies want Utah to stop enforcing privacy protection law Surveillance companies want Utah to stop enforcing privacy protection law
 
A privacy law passed in Utah last year limits the use of license plate readers and aims to keep the data collected by them from being abused; now two surveillance companies that sell those scanners are suing the state for alleged free-speech infringement.
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The two companies — California’s Vigilant Solutions and Digital Recognition Network (DRN) of Texas — filed the lawsuit in Utah federal court on Thursday and asked a judge there for a permanent injunction against last year’s law.

When the legislation was signed by Governor Gary Herbert last April, it imposed restrictions on how the high-tech surveillance tools can be used across the state, essentially abolishing the sale and use of license plate readers by private companies while also putting limits on how long government entities can store the data collected by those devices.

License plate readers, or LPRs, can photograph upwards of 60 cars-per-second and then match that data with details stored in a list that contains the tags registered to criminals or ones ordered for repossession. A handful of states have passed laws putting limits on these devices, though, often by claiming that collecting this information for extended amounts of time allows anyone with ownership of it to pry into the personal lives of others.

“A person who knows all of another’s travels can deduce whether he is a weekly church goer, a heavy drinker, a regular at the gym, an unfaithful husband, an outpatient receiving medical treatment, an associate of particular individuals or political groups — and not just one such fact about a person, but all such facts,” the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled in 2010.

When State Sen. Todd Weiler (R-Woods Cross) proposed the privacy bill, S.B. 196, last February, he asked that the state stop private companies from collecting this information and that the government be forced to give up the data after 90 days.

“I don’t want to stop catching criminals,” he said before committee at the time. “I do want to put a tighter lid on the data being harvested.”

But just one year later, that state law has been brought into the crosshairs of two private surveillance companies that say their right to free speech should cancel out the limits imposed by Weiler’s act.

The suit — filed against both Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes — says a court must intervene and place an injunction against Weiler’s law because the First Amendment of the US Constitution allows for photography in public space — and that, they say, is essentially what the LPRs do.

“Taking and distributing a photograph is an act that is fully protected by the First Amendment,” Michael Carvin, an outside counsel for Vigilant, said in a statement this week. “The state of Utah cannot claim that photographing a license plate violates privacy.”

“License plates are public by nature and contain no sensitive or private information,” Carvin continued.“Any citizen of Utah can walk outside and photograph anything they please, including a license plate.”

Sen. Weiler told the Associated Press this week that his idea of photography doesn’t quite match up with that of the attorneys who are asking for an injunction.

“It’s one thing to take a photo,” he told the AP. “It’s another to take photos every 80th of a millisecond, and then store that data you can later be identified by.”

“I’m befuddled with that being speech,” Weiler told reporters at Ars Technica when they approached him for comment this week. “As you know, this technology… can cut through fog, it can see in the dark, it’s very invasive — it doesn’t matter if you’re going 80 mph. It’s not just a photograph, it’s the direction of travel, time and GPS location. If it was just pictures, nobody would buy it. I think it’s an invasion of privacy. This technology is very intrusive, and I don’t think you can argue with a straight face that this is the same thing as taking a picture of a car.”

When Weiler first proposed his bill last April, the state office of the American Civil Liberties Union lauded his effort while at the same time saying, ideally, they’d want retention periods trimmed down from 90 days to 12 hours. Five months later in July, the ACLU published a 37-page report advocating other lawmakers to propose limits on LPRs.

“The implementation of automatic license plate readers poses serious privacy and other civil liberties threats,” the report read. “More and more cameras, longer retention periods and widespread sharing allow law enforcement agents to assemble the individual puzzle pieces of where we have been over time into a single, high-resolution image of our lives. The knowledge that one is subject to constant monitoring can chill the exercise of our cherished rights to free speech and association.”

Ironically, journalist Paul Nelson of Utah’s KSL news network, reported on Friday that DRN founder Todd Hodnett plans to cite past arguments made by the ACLU in pushing for the court to acknowledge the alleged free-speech infringement brought on by Weiler’s law.

“They assert that when in public spaces, where you are lawfully present, you have the right to photograph anything that’s in plain view. That includes a picture of a federal building, a transportation facility and police,” he told the network.

Hodnett also insisted to KSL that the Utah law “has already had a significant monetary impact on our corporation and our shareholders.” Their lawsuit acknowledges that tow truck owners and repossession businesses in the state can no longer acquires DNR’s services under Weiler law. Prior to its passage, he said, DRN sold a total of 10 LPR camera kits to five private businesses there.

According to his lawsuit, Weiler’s legislation serves little purpose.

“The State does not have a substantial interest in preventing persons from viewing or photographing license plates—or from disseminating the information collected when doing so—because license plates contain no private information whatsoever,” it reads in part. “Moreover, the photographic recording of government-mandated public license plates does not infringe any ‘privacy’ interest that concededly is not infringed when the photographer views the plate. Thus, the State cannot carry its heavy burden to demonstrate that it has a substantial interest that is served by the Act.”

“The law restricts the collection and use of data with an ‘Automatic license plate reader system,’” Fred Cate, a law professor at Indiana University, added to Ars Technica’s report. “The restriction on collecting data might conceivably pass First Amendment scrutiny, but not the ban on using the data. I think it is very likely that a court will strike that down.”

“Whether such laws are ultimately upheld or ruled unconstitutional will have a huge impact on whether more comprehensive privacy regulations are enacted and what they will look like,” Penn State University law professor Clark Asay opined to Ars.

According to their report, Sen. Weiler is currently engaged with the ACLU on a plan that would revise the current law and “may negate” this week’s lawsuit if approved.

Only five states in the US had laws limit LPR use at the time of last year’s ACLU report, but 14 are currently considering similar proposals.

Source: RT