POLICE—NOT FACEBOOK—BIGGEST DANGER TO YOUR PRIVACY

The warnings about what information Facebook or Google or other internet sites glean from you and use or share are valid, but the real danger to your privacy and legal rights comes courtesy of those sworn to uphold the law, law enforcement agencies.

In December a couple of fans were driving home from a Star Trek exhibit in St. louis through Collinsville, Illinois when they were stopped by a local cop for allegedly making an unsignaled lane change. Thse were two white, middle-aged men, unremarkable in appearance or garb or vehicle. They did have out-of-state license tags.

Bad enough the stop was bogus, which the cop later admitted, but he then proceeded to delay them unnecessarily while he fished for information that might let him conclude they were carrying drugs. This has become standard operating procedure for highway cops observing cars with out-of-state plates.

The reason behind this? Not so much to stop the flow of drugs, but to justify confiscation and forfeiture of property, particularly cash, which their departments then use to bolster their budgets.

Watch the linked video and read the accompanying story to see how this is accomplished and noting that the K-9 drug dog search conducted here is done in violation of accepted standards and practices.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/31/drug-search-trekies-stopped-searched-illinois_n_1364087.html

Just to refresh your memory, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constituition reads thusly:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Now the U.S. Supreme Court has carved out a number of exceptions to the warrant requirement, any exception being one too many in my opinion. (What say ye you advocates for original intent? Yeah, you bastards are silent until health care reform becomes law.)

For some of the many ins and outs and allowable police actions during traffic stops see this:

http://www.ncids.org/Defender%20Training/Drug%20Case%20Training/Stops_Warr_Searches.pdf

Watch your local news or read stories in your local newspaper and I guarantee that at least once a week there will be a tale of an arrest for drugs following a stop for a traffic offense. Many of these arrests stem from consent searches but since the drivers are most likely not aware of their rights, that consent is nonsense.

Now comes this exploration of the fact that police departments are tracking cell phones and their users, with much dubious legality.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/us/police-tracking-of-cellphones-raises-privacy-fears.html?_r=1

With cellphones ubiquitous, the police call phone tracing a valuable weapon in emergencies like child abductions and suicide calls and investigations in drug cases and murders. One police training manual describes cellphones as “the virtual biographer of our daily activities,” providing a hunting ground for learning contacts and travels.

But civil liberties advocates say the wider use of cell tracking raises legal and constitutional questions, particularly when the police act without judicial orders. While many departments require warrants to use phone tracking in nonemergencies, others claim broad discretion to get the records on their own, according to 5,500 pages of internal records obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union from 205 police departments nationwide.

The internal documents, which were provided to The New York Times, open a window into a cloak-and-dagger practice that police officials are wary about discussing publicly. While cell tracking by local police departments has received some limited public attention in the last few years, the A.C.L.U. documents show that the practice is in much wider use — with far looser safeguards — than officials have previously acknowledged.

The article notes the recent SCOTUS ruling that the warrantless placing of a GPS on a drug suspect’s vehicle was unconstitutional. With so many cell phones now having a GPS function, there is additional doubt to the legality of this tracking.

If all that were not bad enough, a drone may soon be coming to your neighborhood. You know what drones are, of course. They are the unmanned flying objects (the REAL UFO’s we should be concerned about) such have been used in Afghanistan and Pakistan and other venues of our foreign misadventures, most notably the one used to murder Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen not charged with any crime, last fall.

Glenn Greenwald of Salon has had his finger on the pulse of the movement to have local law enforcement unleash drones on U.S. soil, or should I say airspace.

http://www.salon.com/2011/12/12/the_growing_menace_of_domestic_drones/

That article has links to others he has written as well as to other sources.

He makes his point pretty well about the danger of drones:

Whatever else is true, the growing use of drones for an increasing range of uses on U.S. soil is incredibly consequential and potentially dangerous, for the reasons I outlined last week, and yet it is receiving very little Congressional, media or public attention. It’s just a creeping, under-the-radar change. Even former Congresswoman Harman — who never met a surveillance program she didn’t like and want to fund (until, that is, it was revealed that she herself had been subjected to covert eavesdropping as part of surveillance powers she once endorsed) — has serious concerns about this development: ”There is no question that this could become something that people will regret,” she told the LA Times. The revelation that a Predator drone has been used on U.S. soil this way warrants additional focus on this issue.

This may be Greenwald’s most trenchant observation:

There is always a large segment of the population that reflexively supports the use of greater government and police power — it’s usually the same segment that has little objection to Endless War — and it’s grounded in a mix of standard authoritarianism (I side with authority over those they accused of being Bad and want authorities increasingly empowered to stop the Bad people) along with naiveté (I don’t really worry that new weapons and powers will be abused by those in power, especially when — like now — those in power are Good). This mindset manifests in the domestic drone context specifically by dismissing their use as nothing more than the functional equivalent of police helicopters. This is a view grounded in pure ignorance.

He’s right. This large segment of the population willing to accept any tools authority wants to utilize are among the first to rail against Facebook and Google privacy policies.

Don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of Facebook or Google imprisoning or executing anyone.

Save the Constitution!


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