Be araid (2)

April 7, 2014

Ars Technica has an article about who decides how to pursue those suspected of cybercrime. On the one hand, it seems like a procedural change.

On the other hand, it seems like a way empower even more intrusive surveillance by the government.

As usual, read it and decide for yourself.

Feds want an expanded ability to hack criminal suspects’ computers
Proposed rules to let one judge authorize “remote access” essentially anywhere.

The United States Department of Justice wants to broaden its ability to hack criminal suspects’ computers, according to a new legal proposal that was first published by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday. [March 27th]

If passed as currently drafted, federal authorities would gain an expanded ability to conduct “remote access” under a warrant against a target computer whose location is unknown or outside of a given judicial district. It would also apply in cases where that computer is part of a larger network of computers spread across multiple judicial districts. In the United States, federal warrants are issued by judges who serve one of the 94 federal judicial districts and are typically only valid for that particular jurisdiction.

The 402-page document entitled “Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules” is scheduled to be discussed at an upcoming Department of Justice (DOJ) meeting next month in New Orleans.

Federal agents have been known to use such tactics in past and ongoing cases: a Colorado federal magistrate judge approved sending malware to a suspect’s known e-mail address in 2012. But similar techniques have been rejected by other judges on Fourth Amendment grounds. If this rule revision were to be approved, it would standardize and expand federal agents’ ability to surveil a suspect and to exfiltrate data from a target computer regardless of where it is.
Peter Carr, a DOJ spokesperson, told Ars that he was “not aware of any figures” as to how many times such “remote access” by law enforcement has taken place.

Cracking Tor is hard!

Civil libertarians and legal experts are very concerned that this would unnecessarily expand government power.

“It is nuts,” Chris Soghoian, a technologist and senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, told Ars.

“What’s most shocking is that they’re not going to Congress and asking for this authority. This is a pretty big shift. This is a dangerous direction for the government to go in, and if we’re going to go in that direction then we really need Congress to sign on the dotted line, and [the DOJ is] trying to sneak it through the back door.”

Carr told Ars that the change is needed to combat criminals who use “sophisticated anonymizing technologies,” like Tor.

“Our proposal would not authorize any searches or remote access not already authorized under current law,” he wrote by e-mail. “The proposal relates solely to venue for a warrant application.”


All your license plate numbers are belong to us

April 5, 2014

In the EFF article quoted below, the Los Angeles Police Department makes an interesting claim that all vehicle license plates that are imaged by their ALPR systems are ‘under investigation’… on the principle that those plates might someday be under investigation.

I’m tempted to ridicule that idea by suggesting that the LAPD should take fingerprints and mugshots of all Los Angeles citizens… on the principle that those people might someday be under investigation.

But I won’t make that reductio ad absurdum argument because if the LAPD gets away with secrecy in its ALPR system, the sequel might easily be fingerprints and mugshots for everyone.

If some surveillance is good, then more is better. Right?

Los Angeles Cops Argue All Cars in LA Are Under Investigation

Do you drive a car in the greater Los Angeles Metropolitan area? According to the L.A. Police Department and L.A. Sheriff’s Department, your car is part of a vast criminal investigation.

The agencies took a novel approach in the briefs they filed in EFF and the ACLU of Southern California’s California Public Records Act lawsuit seeking a week’s worth of Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) data. They have argued that “All [license plate] data is investigatory.” The fact that it may never be associated with a specific crime doesn’t matter.

This argument is completely counter to our criminal justice system, in which we assume law enforcement will not conduct an investigation unless there are some indicia of criminal activity. In fact, the Fourth Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution exactly to prevent law enforcement from conducting mass, suspicionless investigations under “general warrants” that targeted no specific person or place and never expired.

Just for clarity, I think anyone who expects privacy while he’s in public hasn’t really thought things through. To talk of privacy while driving a public road or while speaking or meeting in public is a very imprecise way of speaking.

What we expect in public is anonymity, not privacy. We expect our actions & conversations to be ignored by the state unless it has good reason to suspect us of criminal activity — just as we expect passers-by not to eavesdrop on our conversation, even though our speech may be plainly audible to them.

So while we may act and speak in public, those actions and that speech are no concern of the state’s unless it can show good cause for actively monitoring one or both of them.

In other words, it ain’t nobody’s business buy my own.

H.T. Paul


The special tax

April 4, 2014

This essay by Christopher Smith, who’s a professor of criminal justice at Michigan State, appears at The Atlantic. It’s part of a debate series on “Is Stop and Frisk Worth It?,” that appears in the current issue of the magazine.

What Mr. Smith’s perspective reminds me of is John Griffin’s book Black Like Me.

It’s an interesting read.

What I Learned About Stop-and-Frisk From Watching My Black Son
The “special tax” on men of color is more than an inconvenience. A father shares his firsthand observations and fears. 

When I heard that my 21-year-old son, a student at Harvard, had been stopped by New York City police on more than one occasion during the brief summer he spent as a Wall Street intern, I was angry. On one occasion, while wearing his best business suit, he was forced to lie face-down on a filthy sidewalk because—well, let’s be honest about it, because of the color of his skin. As an attorney and a college professor who teaches criminal justice classes, I knew that his constitutional rights had been violated. As a parent, I feared for his safety at the hands of the police—a fear that I feel every single day, whether he is in New York or elsewhere.

Moreover, as the white father of an African-American son, I am keenly aware that I never face the suspicion and indignities that my son continuously confronts. In fact, all of the men among my African-American in-laws—and I literally mean every single one of them—can tell multiple stories of unjustified investigatory police stops of the sort that not a single one of my white male relatives has ever experienced.


And let’s all have a good day

April 3, 2014

Here’s an interesting report from the Fort Worth Start-Telegram about an example of ‘To Serve and Protect’ in action.

Traffic tweets: Keller police post radar locations online

KELLER — Say “speed trap,” and people instantly know you’re talking about a spot where police officers sit with radar guns, hoping to catch speeders, write tickets and generate revenue for their city.

Keller police say they write a lot of tickets, but it’s not intended to stuff city coffers.

“People call it a speed trap, which is goofy, because the speed limit is posted,” said officer Stephen Grossman, assigned to traffic patrol in Keller.

“Our main objective is to slow people down.”

In Keller, police officials don’t mind motorists flashing their headlights to warn others that a cop armed with radar is up ahead; it tends to make people slow down.

And March 10, they started using social media sites to post the locations of police with radar guns. They tell people where Keller traffic officers will be on patrol Monday through Friday. They also post locations in Westlake, which contracts with Keller for police protection.

Reading a post on Facebook or Twitter is like spotting a patrol car up ahead: Drivers immediately check their speedometers, officials said.

“Some folks wonder if we have ulterior motives,” said Capt. Tommy Simmons, Keller’s patrol commander. “But there’s no catch. We’re not trying to trap people into anything.

“Just slow down, drive safe, and let’s all have a good day.”

Via Radley Balko



March 31, 2014

This is a bit long-winded but funny nonetheless.


You can never go home any more

March 30, 2014

‘Tom Paine’ is a British ex-pat who’s been writing at The Last Ditch. I ran across his post below when I found it quoted at Samizdata.

Goodbye and good luck

You cannot, as the man said, step in the same river twice. I was away from Britain for 20 years. The Britain I returned to was not the Britain I left. Even though I had visited often, kept in touch with friends and family and followed political developments assiduously while living abroad, it had changed in ways I had not grasped. Perhaps, to be fair, I had changed too.

To me, it now seems a strange, immoral place. For example, I read articles in The Guardian and The Times this week about the abolition of inherited wealth. The Economist also recently wrote about it. It did not even occur to any of these columnists that they were talking about the property of others. They did not create it. They did not inherit it. They have no just claim to it. Yet they have no moral concerns about proposing its seizure. [...]

I have tried to make these points both here and face to face with people I meet in my everyday life. All I have achieved is an outward reputation for eccentricity and a powerful inward sense of alienation. As the next General Election approaches offering me no moral choices it is time, alas, to accept defeat.

Everything I might still want to say to you has been said better in this book and this one. I am wasting your time writing anything more than this heartfelt recommendation to read them.

Goodbye and good luck.

I wasn’t certain that this was intended to be Tom’s farewell post but he confirmed that it was in a comment at Samizdata.

Reading his post reminded me of my thoughts that maybe those of us who favor freedom and self-reliance have lost a culture war. Maybe we’ve allowed the debate to be framed in terms favorable to our opponents’ points of view. There are times when I wonder whether I’m becoming an eccentric (as Tom says) or the culture really has changed for the worse in the years since I was young. It can be a tough call.

It helps to recall some Happy Warriors of the recent past, even if I didn’t always agree with all the battles they fought. They re-framed the debates of their time: "There can be no liberty unless there is economic liberty."

And all that said, I certainly agree with Tom’s advice that you read Thomas Sowell’s books linked in his post.


Alarmism muted?

March 29, 2014

Matt Ridley (Mr. Rational Optimist) had an article in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal about a report soon to be released by the IPCC. (I wonder whether Professor Torcello has heard of this.)

Climate Forecast: Muting the Alarm
Even while it exaggerates the amount of warming, the IPCC is becoming more cautious about its effects.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will shortly publish the second part of its latest report, on the likely impact of climate change. Government representatives are meeting with scientists in Japan to sex up—sorry, rewrite—a summary of the scientists’ accounts of storms, droughts and diseases to come. But the actual report, known as AR5-WGII, is less frightening than its predecessor seven years ago.

The 2007 report was riddled with errors about Himalayan glaciers, the Amazon rain forest, African agriculture, water shortages and other matters, all of which erred in the direction of alarm. This led to a critical appraisal of the report-writing process from a council of national science academies, some of whose recommendations were simply ignored.

Others, however, hit home. According to leaks, this time the full report is much more cautious and vague about worsening cyclones, changes in rainfall, climate-change refugees, and the overall cost of global warming.

It puts the overall cost at less than 2% of GDP for a 2.5 degrees Centigrade (or 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature increase during this century. This is vastly less than the much heralded prediction of Lord Stern, who said climate change would cost 5%-20% of world GDP in his influential 2006 report for the British government. [...]

Via CoyoteBlog’s We Are All Lukewarmers Now


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