Posts tagged ACLU
Policing for Profit: Teaparty, ACLU, AFP Join Forces to Fight Worst in Nation Georgia Forfeiture Laws0
Policing for Profit: Teaparty, ACLU, AFP Join Forces to Fight Worst in Nation Georgia Forfeiture Laws
The ALCU and the Tea Party groups got together to fight the IRS last week. Looks like the’re getting together again in Georgia to keep cops from taking people’s property. Good.
Where possible all those who care about civil liberties (perhaps for different reasons) should pool their resources to push back against a state which has tested the limits of our Constitution. Just because one has $10,000 in cash and the police find it doesn’t mean that the police get to keep all or part of it. But that’s what many civil forfeiture laws now allow, even if one is never convicted of anything.
“Why do you have $10K in cash? “Good” citizens don’t carry $10,000 in cash. You must be a drug dealer. Because you’re a drug dealer the police department will now take your $10,000. Thank you.
What’s that you say? Did we find any drugs? You say you’re not a drug dealer? Well, that’s not how it works citizen. We don’t need to see any drugs when you have a pile of cash.
What’s that? A pile of cash is legal to own? Sure it might be legal to own it, but its also legal for us to take it.”
Critics say some law enforcement officers unfairly keep money seized from motorists who are investigated for drug trafficking and other offenses and eventually cleared. One man spent $12,000 in legal fees to recover $43,000 police took from him when he was pulled over in South Georgia, the institute noted.
The coalition wants the Georgia Legislature to pass House Bill 1, which would put law enforcement and prosecutors under greater scrutiny over how they use cash and property seized in criminal investigations. Supporters want Georgia’s forfeiture laws to be patterned after the rules in North Carolina, in which a jury can consider seizing property only after a conviction, and only if it was used for a crime.
Image credit: http://www.againstcronycapitalism.org
About Nick Sorrentino
Nick Sorrentino is the co-founder and editor of AgainstCronyCapitalism.org. A political and communications consultant with clients across the political spectrum, he lives just outside of Washington DC where he can keep an eye on Leviathan.
How Debtors’ Prisons are Making a Comeback in America
Apparently having 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of its prisoners simply isn’t good enough for neo-feudal America. No, we need to find more creative and archaic ways to wastefully, immorally and seemingly unconstitutionally incarcerate poor people. Welcome to the latest trend in the penal colony formerly known as America. Debtors’ prisons. A practice I thought had long since been deemed outdated (indeed it has been largely eradicated in the Western world with the exception of about 1/3 of U.S. states as well as Greece).
From Fox News:
As if out of a Charles Dickens novel, people struggling to pay overdue fines and fees associated with court costs for even the simplest traffic infractions are being thrown in jail across the United States.
Critics are calling the practice the new “debtors’ prison” — referring to the jails that flourished in the U.S. and Western Europe over 150 years ago. Before the time of bankruptcy laws and social safety nets, poor folks and ruined business owners were locked up until their debts were paid off.
Reforms eventually outlawed the practice. But groups like the Brennan Center for Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union say it’s been reborn in local courts which may not be aware it’s against the law to send indigent people to jail over unpaid fines and fees — or they just haven’t been called on it until now.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law released a “Tool Kit for Action” in 2012 that broke down the cost to municipalities to jail debtors in comparison with the amount of old debt it was collecting. It doesn’t look like a bargain. For example, according to the report, Mecklenburg County, N.C., collected $33,476 in debts in 2009, but spent $40,000 jailing 246 debtors — a loss of $6,524.
Don’t worry, I’m sure private prisons for debtors will soon spring up to make this practice a pillar of GDP growth.
Many jurisdictions have taken to hiring private collection/probation companies to go after debtors, giving them the authority to revoke probation and incarcerate if they can’t pay. Research into the practice has found that private companies impose their own additional surcharges. Some 15 private companies have emerged to run these services in the South, including the popular Judicial Correction Services (JCS).
In 2012, Circuit Judge Hub Harrington at Harpersville Municipal Court in Alabama shut down what he called the “debtors’ prison” process there, echoing complaints that private companies are only in it for the money. He cited JCS in part for sending indigent people to jail. Calling it a “judicially sanctioned extortion racket,” Harrington said many defendants were locked up on bogus failure-to-appear warrants, and slapped with more fines and fees as a result.
Repeated calls to JCS in Alabama and Georgia were not returned.
The ACLU found that seven out of 11 counties they studied were operating de facto debtors’ prisons, despite clear “constitutional and legislative prohibitions.” Some were worse than others. In the second half of 2012 in Huron County, 20 percent of arrests were for failure to pay fines. The Sandusky Municipal Court in Erie County jailed 75 people in a little more than a month during the summer of 2012. The ACLU says it costs upwards of $400 in Ohio to execute a warrant and $65 a night to jail people.
Mark Silverstein, a staff attorney at the Colorado ACLU, claimed judges in these courts never assess the defendants’ ability to pay before sentencing them to jail, which would be unconstitutional.
Full article here.
On a related note, I strong suggest everyone read the following article from The Atlantic called: I Got Myself Arrested So I Could Look Inside the Justice System.
You’ll never see the “justice” system in the same light again.
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Image added to post, image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Video of the Day: “The NSA is Coming to Town”
Just in time for the holidays, this excellent video spoof of the NSA has emerged. At the end of the day, humor is always one of the most effective tools of resistance. Remember the wise and timeless words of John Lennon:
When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you – pull your beard, flick your face – to make you fight. Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humor.
Video capture added to Mike’s original post.
Are Americans Capable of Retaining Their Freedom? – Dave Champion
Published by NextNewsNetwork
Independent radio host Dave Champion lives by a simple and direct motto: “Whatever the question, the answer is `liberty.’” The tagline to his program is just as forthright: “The Truth — whether you like it or not.”
Mr. Champion, known as America’s Bad Boy of Liberty, believes that Americans are adults who are capable of hearing unpleasant truths and acting on them.
He pulls no punches and cuts no corners in extolling the virtues of individual freedom and personal responsibility — and condemning corrupt, dishonest, and power-hungry officials at every level.
It’s a pleasure and a privilege to talk briefly with Dave today about the George Zimmerman acquittal and several other important — and widely misunderstood — recent events.
10 Ways That The Iron Grip Of The Big Brother Prison Grid Is Tightening On All Of Our Lives
Do you ever feel trapped in an invisible control grid that is slowly but surely closing in all around you? Do you ever feel like virtually everything that you do is being watched, tracked, monitored and recorded? If so, unfortunately it is not just your imagination. Our society is rapidly being transformed into a Big Brother prison grid by a government that is seemingly obsessed with knowing everything that we do. They want a record of all of our phone calls, all of our Internet activity and all of our financial transactions. They even want our DNA. They put chips in our passports, they are starting to scan the eyes of our children in our schools, and they have declared our border areas to be “Constitution-free zones” where they can do just about anything to us that they want. The Bill of Rights has already been eroded so badly that many would argue that it is already dead. The assault against our most basic freedoms and liberties never seems to end. The following are 10 ways that the iron grip of the Big Brother prison grid is tightening on all of our lives…
#1 Automated License Plate Scanners
All over the United States automated license plate scanners are being installed. Sometimes they are mounted on police vehicles, and other times they are put on stationary locations like bridges and road signs. These automated license plate scanners are collecting a staggering amount of information about the travel patterns of millions of innocent American citizens every single day…
Police are recording and storing information on millions of license plates that aren’t related to suspected violation of the law or any known activity of interest to law enforcement, according to data collected by the American Civil Liberties Union through Freedom of Information requests in 38 states.
According to the Washington Post, automated license plate scanners recorded the locations of vehicle plates 85 million times in the state of Maryland in 2012.
And as more of these scanners get installed around the nation, the amount of information that the government collects about the movements of our vehicles will continue to increase.
#2 Government Workers Ordered To Spy On The “Lifestyles, Attitudes And Behaviors” Of Their Fellow Workers
Did you know that the Obama administration has ordered federal workers to spy on one another?…
Federal employees and contractors are asked to pay particular attention to the lifestyles, attitudes and behaviors – like financial troubles, odd working hours or unexplained travel – of co-workers as a way to predict whether they might do “harm to the United States.” Managers of special insider threat offices will have “regular, timely, and, if possible, electronic, access” to employees’ personnel, payroll, disciplinary and “personal contact” files, as well as records of their use of classified and unclassified computer networks, polygraph results, travel reports and financial disclosure forms.
If you do not spy on your fellow workers and something goes wrong, you could lose your job or potentially even be prosecuted yourself.
#3 Eye Scanners In Our Schools
According to CNN, iris scanners are already going into schools all over the country, and soon they will be used in banks, at airports and at ATM machines…
In the next year, industry insiders say the technology will be available all over– from banks to airports. That means instead of entering your pin number, you can gain access to an ATM in a blink. Used in an airport, the system will analyze your iris as you pass through security, identifying and welcoming you by name.
Will we soon live in a world where we no longer use passwords and instead use our eyeballs?…
“Imagine a world where you’re no longer reliant on user names and passwords,” Eyelock CMO Anthony Antolino told CNNMoney. “If we’re going through a turnstile and you have authorization to go beyond that, it’ll open the turnstile for you, if you embed it into a tablet or PC, it will unlock your phone or your tablet or it will log you into your email account.”
#4 Biometric Chips In Our Passports
Did you know that all U.S. passports contain biometric identity chips? The following is from a recent CNSNews.com article…
According to the website, the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002 required foreigners participating in the Visa Waiver Program–which permits entry into the United States without a VISA for a limited period of time–to have these integrated circuits or chips on their passport.
“As a security measure, Congress has legislated that all countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program with the United States must issue passports with integrated circuits (chips), to permit storage of at least a digital image of the passport photograph for use with face recognition technology,” the website states.
The website also says that since 2007 the State Department has been issuing U.S. passports bearing the chips. The department did this on its own authority, and not in response to any statutory mandate enacted by Congress.
#5 All Your Financial Transactions Tracked By The Government?
Most Americans have never even heard of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but one U.S. Senator is warning that this agency wants to keep a record of all of your financial transactions…
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is looking to create a “Google Earth” of every financial transaction of every American, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) warned today in a Senate speech opposing confirmation of Richard Cordray as CFPB director.
“This bill (creating the CFPB) was supposed to be about regulating Wall Street. Instead, it’s creating a Google Earth on every financial transaction. That’s right: the government will be able to see every detail of your finances. Your permission – not needed,” Sen. Enzi said.
Posted by Judy Morris
Driving somewhere? There’s a government record of that
WASHINGTON (AP) — Chances are, your local or state police departments have photographs of your car in their files, noting where you were driving on a particular day, even if you never did anything wrong.
Using automated scanners, law enforcement agencies across the country have amassed millions of digital records on the location and movement of every vehicle with a license plate, according to a study published Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union. Affixed to police cars, bridges or buildings, the scanners capture images of passing or parked vehicles and note their location, uploading that information into police databases. Departments keep the records for weeks or years, sometimes indefinitely.
As the technology becomes cheaper and more ubiquitous, and federal grants focus on aiding local terrorist detection, even small police agencies are able to deploy more sophisticated surveillance systems. While the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that a judge’s approval is needed to track a car with GPS, networks of plate scanners allow police effectively to track a driver’s location, sometimes several times every day, with few legal restrictions. The ACLU says the scanners assemble what it calls a “single, high-resolution image of our lives.”
“There’s just a fundamental question of whether we’re going to live in a society where these dragnet surveillance systems become routine,” said Catherine Crump, a staff attorney with the ACLU. The civil rights group is proposing that police departments immediately delete any records of cars not linked to a crime.
Written by Dr. Clifford A. Kiracofe
Snowden Case Highlights Deep Constitutional Erosion
The case of Edward J. Snowden raises a number of difficult issues for the United States. The case impacts on Washington’s foreign policy and on US domestic politics. The decline of American representative democracy is now sharply in focus.
Americans naturally want appropriate and necessary capabilities to defend our country but we do not want such capabilities turned on ourselves in violation of the US Constitution.
The impact on domestic US politics is squarely on issues of constitutional law. Already the watchdog American Civil Liberties Union filed a court case against the government as a result of Snowden’s revelations.
Critics are outraged by what they see as White House lying about possibly illegal domestic surveillance activity. There is further outrage over the recent congressional testimony of the head of the National Security Agency and the head of the US intelligence community. Critics say these two men committed perjury by lying to Congress and that is a high crime.
In the US system governed by our unique constitution, the separation of executive, legislative, and judicial powers is a fundamental core value. It is based on ancient principles found in Greco-Roman tradition as well as in European parliamentary tradition.
The construction of the “imperial presidency” and distortion of the separation of powers increased during the Cold War. Today, it is evident that US constitutional democracy is in deep decline reflecting not only the disintegration of the rule of law but also reflecting the disintegration of American civic culture.
Judge Napolitano Discusses Latest Edward Snowden Revelations
Posted by MichaelSavage4Prez Jun 13, 2013
By Ezra Van Auken
Ron Paul Thanks Whistleblower; List of Those Spied on by NSA to be Used in Court Against Gov’t
By now everyone realizes that former Texas Representative Ron Paul certainly led the way for the ideas of libertarianism and civil liberties after leaving nearly three decades of a career in Washington DC. When it comes to issues such as the National Security Agency’s huge PRISM spying scandal, relying on Paul for interjection isn’t a bad idea. Since the NSA’s powerpoints were leaked, which revealed a huge encroachment of privacy and the Fourth Amendment, Paul has been very vocal.
Since last week’s intelligence leak Paul officially thanked Edward Snowden, the whistleblower and Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who broke the story. “We should be thankful for individuals like Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald who see injustice being carried out by their own government and speak out, despite the risk,” Paul stated in a Campaign for Liberty publication. The former Congressman also explained, “The government does not need to know more about what we are doing. We need to know more about what the government is doing,” calling out Obama’s secrecy.
Reiterating his support for civil liberties across the board, Paul noted, “The Fourth Amendment is clear; we should be secure in our persons, houses, papers, and effects, and all warrants must have probable cause. Today the government operates largely in secret, while seeking to know everything about our private lives – without probable cause and without a warrant.” Then Paul took to his “Texas Straight Talk” podcast segment for putting more exposure on the NSA scandal, calling for more transparency in the government and not the people.
Interestingly in the wake of the NSA’s confirmed spying on Americans through communications such as the computer and phone, a YouTube video has gone viral of Paul speaking on the floor in 1984. The then-Congressman warned of the very problems that Americans are witnessing today – government spying. Paul said, “It’s now common knowledge that the federal government computers are routinely used to compare lists of 18 year olds who get drivers licenses with those who have registered for the draft.”
The Texan finished his 1984 remarks saying, “Why is it that it’s so difficult to defend freedom consistently across the board?”
Even in the early days of this NSA leak, Americans have yet to see the “tip of the ice berg”. What many missed on Monday morning is what journalist Glenn Greenwald told CNBC. Greenwald told the CNBC news anchor, “Part of what the documents include that he [Snowden] turned over is a list of the people that the US government has been targeting, and one of the reasons he did that was so those lawsuits can proceed. So that we can now know who has been subjective to this surveillance, so they can go into court and ask for a court ruling,” on whether government spying is constitutional.
The lawsuits Greenwald was referring to are recent lawsuits such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) taking to the courts to challenge the constitutionality of government surveillance. What makes the task impossible for those in the ACLU and other advocacy groups is that instead of receiving a fair challenge, the government has repeatedly told civil liberties groups that government surveillance is too classified to proceed with any trial. Greenwald detailed, “The government has continuously said it is too secretive to allow courts to review and because we do all of this in the dark nobody can prove they’ve been eavesdropped on and therefore don’t have standing to sue.”
Greenwald made sure to say the list is nearly the most important part of the leaked information. Now with the list of “who has been spied on”, the content and nature of the surveillance grid can be righteously challenged in court, putting Obama’s administration on the hot seat.
Posted by Laissez Faire Today
Law enforcement agencies are increasingly using sophisticated cameras, called “automated license plate readers,” or ALPRs, to scan and record the license plates of millions of cars across the country. These cameras, mounted on top of patrol cars and on city streets, can scan up to 1,800 license plate per minute, day or night, allowing one squad car to record more than 14,000 plates during the course of a single shift.
Photographing a single license plate one time on a public city street may not seem problematic, but when the data are put into a database, combined with other scans of that same plate on other city streets, and stored forever, it can become very revealing. Information about your location over time can show not only where you live and work, but your political and religious beliefs, your social and sexual habits, your visits to the doctor, and your associations with others. And according to recent research reported in Nature, it’s possible to identify 95% of individuals with as few as four randomly selected geospatial data points (location plus time), making location data the ultimate biometric identifiers.
To better gauge the real threat to privacy posed by ALPRs, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU of Southern California asked the LAPD and LA Sheriff’s Department for information on their systems, including their policies on retaining and sharing information and all the license plate data each department collected over the course of a single week in 2012.
After both agencies refused to release most of the records we asked for, we sued. We hope to get access to these data, both to show just how many data the agencies are collecting and to show how revealing they can be.
Automated license plate readers are often touted as an easy way to find stolen cars — the system checks a scanned plate against a database of stolen or wanted cars and can instantly identify a hit, allowing officers to set up a sting to recover the car and catch the thief. But even when there’s no match in the database and no reason to think a car is stolen or involved in a crime, police keep the data.
According to the LA Weekly, the LAPD and LASD together already have collected more than 160 million “data points” (license plates plus time, date, and exact location) in the greater LA area — that’s more than 20 hits for each of the more than 7 million vehicles registered in LA County. That’s a ton of data, but it’s not all — law enforcement officers also have access to private databases containing hundreds of millions of plates and their coordinates collected by “repo” men.
Law enforcement agencies claim that ALPR systems are no different from an officer recording license plate, time and location information by hand. They also argue the data don’t warrant any privacy protections because we drive our cars around in public. However, as five justices of the Supreme Court recognized last year in U.S. v. Jones, a case involving GPS tracking, the ease of data collection and the low cost of data storage make technological surveillance solutions such as GPS or ALPR very different from techniques used in the past.
Police are open about their desire to record the movements of every car in case it might one day prove valuable. In 2008, LAPD police Chief Charlie Beck (then the agency’s chief of detectives) told GovTech magazine that ALPRs have “unlimited potential” as an investigative tool. “It’s always going to be great for the black-and-white to be driving down the street and find stolen cars rolling around… But the real value comes from the long-term investigative uses of being able to track vehicles — where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing — and tie that to crimes that have occurred or that will occur.” But amassing data on the movements of law-abiding residents poses a real threat to privacy, while the benefit to public safety is speculative, at best.
In light of privacy concerns, states including Maine, New Jersey, and Virginia have limited the use of ALPRs, and New Hampshire has banned them outright. Even the International Association of Chiefs of Police has issued a report recognizing that “recording driving habits” could raise First Amendment concerns because cameras could record “vehicles parked at addiction-counseling meetings, doctors’ offices, health clinics, or even staging areas for political protests.”
But even if ALPRs are permitted, there are still common-sense limits that can allow the public safety benefits of ALPRs while preventing the wholesale tracking of every resident’s movements. Police can, and should, treat location information from ALPRs like other sensitive information — they should retain it no longer than necessary to determine if it might be relevant to a crime, and should get a warrant to keep it any longer. They should limit who can access it and who they can share it with. And they should put oversight in place to ensure these limits are followed.
Unfortunately, efforts to impose reasonable limits on ALPR tracking in California have failed so far. Last year, legislation that would have limited private and law enforcement retention of ALPR data to 60 days — a limit currently in effect for the California Highway Patrol — and restricted sharing between law enforcement and private companies failed after vigorous opposition from law enforcement. In California, law enforcement agencies remain free to set their own policies on the use and retention of ALPR data, or to have no policy at all.
Some have asked why we would seek public disclosure of the actual license plate data collected by the police — location-based data that we think is private. But we asked specifically for a narrow slice of data — just a week’s worth — to demonstrate how invasive the technology is. Having the data will allow us to see how frequently some plates have been scanned; where and when, specifically, the cops are scanning plates; and just how many plates can be collected in a large metropolitan area over the course of a single week. Actual data will reveal whether ALPRs are deployed primarily in particular areas of Los Angeles and whether some communities might, therefore, be much more heavily tracked than others. If these data are too private to give a week’s worth to the public to help inform us how the technology is being used, then isn’t it too private to let the police amass years’ worth of data without a warrant?
After the Boston Marathon bombings, many have argued that the government should take advantage of surveillance technology to collect more data, rather than less. But we should not so readily give up the very freedoms that terrorists seek to destroy. We should recognize just how revealing ALPR data are and not be afraid to push our police and legislators for sensible limits to protect our basic right to privacy.
Jennifer Lynch and Peter Bibring
A version of this article was originally posted here.