Companies Ask For NSA Transparency, DOJ Rejects Them

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. – Jesus Christ

The U.S. Department of Justice denied a request by tech companies Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, and Linkedln to allow them to disclose more information about the frequency with which they are contacted by the U.S. government to give up user data under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. (More info here)

The DOJ claims that giving these companies the ability to tell the public more about requests from federal organizations like the NSA would pose a risk to national security.

Of course.

So, letting Americans know about its own government spying on them would set us up for real trouble huh? How about the threat to national security posed by the government itself? Shouldn’t the Constitution and transparency be more important? After all, you are four times more likely to be killed by a lightning bolt than by a terror attack.

Patrick Henry understood that government must remain transparent.

“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”

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Border Patrol Loaning Predator Drones to Military, State, and Local Police

Think state and local law enforcement aren’t watching you with high-tech federally-owned drones? Think again.

In a new post, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reports that Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, released an updated list of “times the agency has flown its Predator drones on behalf of other agencies — 500 flights in total over a three-year period.”

Some of the more interesting revelations contained in the report — obtained by EFF as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit — include the fact that CBP drones flew more than 100 missions on behalf of the Department of Justice.

As the EFF story indicates, this level of cooperation between CBP and the Department of Justice “is in direct contradiction to a recently released DOJ Office of Inspector General (OIG) Report (pdf) that stated DHS had flown its drones on only two occasions for DOJ law enforcement components.”

Although many of the agencies borrowing CBP drones were revealed in earlier lists, there are a few new entries: “Grand Forks SWAT, the North Dakota Narcotics Task Force, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Minnesota Drug Task Force, and several branches of the military.”

Read that again: “Several branches of the military” are flying drone missions above the United States. For what lawful purpose could the armed forces be conducting such operations domestically? Furthermore, the likelihood is high that such activities run afoul of the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the U.S. military from performing domestic law-enforcement duties.

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Oregon Governor Signs Anti-Drone Bill Into Law

On July 29, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber (D) signed the Anti-Drone Spying bill (HB2710) into law.

The new law will require law enforcement to obtain a warrant for drone use in all but a few cases.

Provides that drones may be used by law enforcement agency for purpose of surveillance of persons only pursuant to a warrant or in emergency circumstances. Provides that law enforcement agencies may use drones to intercept communications only as provided under laws relating to wiretaps other interceptions of communications. Requires destruction of images and other information acquired by use of drone within 30 days.

The bill also outlaws weaponized drones.

Representative John Huffman (R ) said, “I feel that we were able to craft our bill to get ahead of the curve and ensure people’s rights were protected — but also to let Insitu and other companies in the industry know that we are willing to work with them.”

The House passed its version of the bill 52-7 on April 15. The Senate passed the amended version 23-5 on June 10th. The differences between the two bills were resolved in committee, and it was sent to the governor for his signature.

While the exceptions for drone use raise legitimate concerns, as things existed,  Oregonians had no protections against drone surveillance. Law enforcement agencies in Oregon could use drones any time, anywhere, with absolutely no parameters. Under the new law, drone use will be extremely limited and circumscribed.

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