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Big Brother Watch Vol. 1, No. 7 PDF Print E-mail
Written by j p   
Monday, 26 June 2006

by James Plummer with Joshua M. Parker
June 19, 2006

DOJ data retention push

Los Angeles launches, crashes spy plane

SCOTUS: No knock, no privacy, no problem

by James Plummer with Joshua M. Parker
June 19, 2006

Big Brother Watch is published by the Big Brother Watch Center, a project of the Liberty & Privacy Network, a 501(c)3 affiliated with Liberty Coalition. A website is forthcoming at www.watchingbigbrother.org

DOJ data retention push 

The Justice Department is now aggressively laying the groundwork for a bill that would require Internet service providers to retain data of all their customers online activities so that the federal government may more easily keep track of what Americans are up to.

The Washington Post reported on June 2 ("Government, Internet Firms In Talks Over Browsing Data") that ISPs (including representatives from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, Verizon Communications Inc., EarthLink Inc., AT&T Inc., Comcast Corp.) had a contentious discussion with federal law enforcement officials regarding data retention. The ISPs worried that data retention would be a risk to privacy, security, and low-cost services.

DOJ has continued to meet with ISPs and privacy groups to press its point of view and argue for legislation on data retention. DOJ emphasizes that nothing has been decided upon, and is seeking input on what their data retention proposal ought to look like, should a proposal be approved. DOJ is claiming in the meetings that the main purpose of data retention legislation would be to catch potential child pornographers; to the point that DOJ has privately downplays other possible uses (national security, intellectual property rights, etc) of data retention as unimportant at this point in time.

Privacy advocacy groups such as Electronic Privacy Information Center, the American Civil Liberties Union and Liberty Coalition continue to fervently oppose government-mandated data retention. It is widely interpreted that such legislation would violate the Fourth Amendment, since ISPs need to retain data even if there is not necessarily strong allegations that a crime has been committed.

DOJ, however, has continued to stress that the data would be retained by the ISPs, not the government itself. Accordingly, the government would need to go through the legal process before attaining any stored data. (Though "legal processes" continue to become increasingly flexible as the century progresses.) Despite DOJ's private assurances that there is no legislation already written, government action on data retention appears to be imminent.

Los Angeles launches, crashes spy plane

The opening scene of Orwell's dystopian masterpiece, 1984, features a helicopter buzzing through the city, spying on the citizens of the totalitarian state. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has taken another step towards that frightening reality with the launch on Friday of an unmanned spy drone to fly about the city, spying on the citizens below.

The Sheriff's Department calls the five-pound drone "SkySeer."   The SkySeer has a remote-controlled camera that can pan and tilt in response to commands sent from a laptop control center.  Commander Sid Heal, head of LASD's Technology Exploration Project was enthusiastic that the single drone craft would eventually grow into an entire fleet of hovering spycams.  Responding to concerns about the growing surveillance state represented by the spy plane, Heal told Agence France-Presse, "You shouldn’t be worried about being spied on by your government. "

Anglenos may get a reprise from Heal's prying eyes, however. Friday's test launch concluded with the "high-tech kite" suddenly crashing into a vacant lot.

Privacy Villain of the Week:
SCOTUS: No knock, no privacy, no problem

The Supreme Court announced on Thursday their ruiling in the case of Hudson v. Michigan.  In a radical departure from the common-law doctrine that a man's home is his castle, the court ruled admissable in court evidence collected by police who have search warrants but fail to announce  properly their arrival.

The case was reargued after first being heard by the court in January; because Justice Sandra Day O'Connor retired just days after and hers had proven to be the key vote in a 5-4 split decision.  O'Connor's questioning during the arguments indicated she favored Hudson's home-owner rights over Michigan's right to search.

Her replacement, Justice Samuel Alito, wound up siding with the eventual 5-4 majority in favor of no-knock evidence.  [


Big Brother Watch is a part of the Liberty and Privacy Network, a DC-incorporated 501(c)(3) organization, affiliated with the Liberty Coalition .

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Last Updated ( Monday, 26 June 2006 )
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