Federal Lawsuit Targets Spying By New York City Police Department In The City And New Jersey

June 6, 2012

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Eight Muslims filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday in New Jersey to force the New York Police Department to end its surveillance and other intelligence-gathering practices targeting Muslims in the years after the 2001 terrorist attacks. The lawsuit alleged that the police activities were unconstitutional because they focused on people’s religion, national origin and race.

It is the first lawsuit to directly challenge the NYPD’s surveillance programs, which were the subject of an investigative series by The Associated Press since last year. Based on internal NYPD reports and interviews with officials involved in the programs, the AP reported that the NYPD conducted wholesale surveillance of entire Muslim neighborhoods, chronicling daily life including where people ate, prayed and got their hair cut. Police infiltrated dozens of mosques and Muslim student groups and investigated hundreds more.

Syed Farhaj Hassan, one of the plaintiffs, stopped attending one mosque as often after he learned it was one of four where he worships that were included in NYPD files. Those mosques were located along the East Coast from central Connecticut to the Philadelphia suburbs, but none was linked to terrorism, either publicly or in the confidential NYPD documents.

Hassan, an Army reservist from a small town outside of New Brunswick, N.J., said he was concerned that anything linking his life to potential terrorism would hurt his military security clearance.

“Guilt by association was forced on me,” Hassan said.

The NYPD did not respond to questions about the lawsuit but noted the New Jersey attorney general determined last month that NYPD activities in New Jersey were legal.

NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said his department is obligated to do this type of surveillance in order to protect New York from another 9/11. Kelly has said the 2001 attacks proved that New Yorkers could not rely solely on the federal government for protection, and the NYPD needed to enhance its efforts.

Hassan said he served in Iraq in 2003 to stop the atrocities of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s secret police.

“I didn’t know they had one across the Hudson,” he said, referring to the NYPD intelligence division.

California-based Muslim Advocates, a civil rights organization that meets regularly with representatives of the Obama administration, is representing the plaintiffs in the case for free.

“The NYPD program is founded upon a false and constitutionally impermissible premise: that Muslim religious identity is a legitimate criterion for selection of law-enforcement surveillance targets,” the lawsuit said.

New Jersey lawmakers were outraged earlier this year when they learned of the surveillance. But after a three-month review, the state’s attorney general found that the NYPD did not violate any state laws when it spied on Muslim neighborhoods and organizations. The attorney general found no recourse for the state of New Jersey to stop the NYPD from infiltrating Muslim student groups, video-taping mosque-goers or collecting their license plate numbers as they prayed.

No court has ruled that the NYPD programs were illegal. But the division operates without significant oversight: The New York City Council does not believe it has the expertise to oversee the intelligence division, and Congress believes the NYPD is not part of its jurisdiction even though the police department receives billions in federal funding each year.

Members of Congress and civil rights groups have urged the Justice Department to investigate the NYPD’s practices. A Justice Department spokeswoman said they are still reviewing the requests. Federal investigations into police departments typically focus on police abuse or racial profiling in arrests. Since 9/11, the Justice Department has never publicly investigated a police department for its surveillance in national security investigations.

Because of widespread civil rights abuses during the 1950s and 1960s, the NYPD has been limited by a court order in what intelligence it can gather on innocent people. Lawyers in that case have questioned whether the post-9/11 spying violates that order. The lawsuit filed Wednesday is a separate legal challenge.

The NYPD and New York officials have said the surveillance programs violated no one’s constitutional rights, and the NYPD is allowed to travel anywhere to collect information. Officials have said NYPD lawyers closely review the intelligence division’s programs.

“The constitutional violation that the NYPD did commit was blanket surveillance of a group based on religion,” said Glenn Katon, Muslim Advocate’s legal director. He said a program that treats people differently based on religion, national origin or race is subject to the Constitution. “That’s the crux of our claim,” he said.

A George Washington University law professor, Jonathan Turley, said it would be a challenge to convince the government that the NYPD’s practices were illegal because the courts and Congress have allowed more and more surveillance in the years since 9/11. But, he said, most of these questions have been handled in policy debates and not in the court systems.

Nineteen-year-old Moiz Mohammed, a sophomore at Rutgers University, said he was moved to join the lawsuit after reading reports that the NYPD had conducted surveillance of Muslim student groups at colleges across the Northeast, including his own. He said the revelations had made him nervous to pray in public or engage in lively debates with fellow students — a practice he said he once most enjoyed about the college atmosphere.

“It’s such an unfair thing going on: Here I am, I am an American citizen, I was born here, I am law abiding, I volunteer in my community, I have dialogues and good relationships with Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and the NYPD here is surveilling people like me?”

“We feel as though it was a violation of our constitutional and our civil and our human rights,” said Abdul Kareem Muhammad, one of the plaintiff’s in the case. Muhammad is the imam of the Newark mosque, Masjid al-Haqq. That mosque was listed and pictured in a September 2007 NYPD report on Newark.

“We have a very strong objection to that,” Muhammad said. “We condemn and denounce every form of terrorism.”

Muhammad said he and other Muslim community leaders have not been given assurances that the NYPD is no longer conducting surveillance on their communities.

“That’s become very disturbing, too,” Muhammad said. “There’s a possibility that this is still going on.”

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30,000 Secret Warrant Per Year To Spy On People In The United States

June 5, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Federal judges approve about 30,000 secret warrants to spy on people in the USA every year, and the innocent probably will never know they were watched, says a U.S. jurist involved in issuing the orders.

Magistrate Judge Stephen Smith writes in a new paper, highlighted by Ars Technica, that the 2006 total outstripped the entire output of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court since it was created in 1979, and the number is probably growing.

The secret orders are authorized by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, known as ECPA. Smith writes that the volume of such cases “is greater than the combined yearly total of all antitrust, employment discrimination, environmental, copyright, patent, trademark and securities cases filed in federal court.”

The warrants and the court’s proceedings are not open to public scrutiny. A three-judge panel reviews denials of applications for the warrants, but the court is not adversarial or open, and many orders are never unsealed.

Here are some of Smith’s findings, which will be published in the Harvard Law & Policy Review:

These electronic surveillance orders … grant law enforcement access to the electronic lives of our citizens — who we call, where we go, when we text, what websites we visit, what emails we send. Unlike most court orders, electronic surveillance orders are permanently hidden from public view by various ECPA provisions, including sealed court files, gag orders, and delayed-notice. It’s as though these orders were written in invisible ink — legible to the phone companies and electronic service providers who execute them, yet imperceptible to targeted individuals, the general public, and even other arms of government, including Congress and appellate courts.

This regime of secrecy has many unhealthy consequences: Congress lacks accurate empirical data to monitor the effectiveness of the existing statutory scheme and adapt it to new technologies; appellate courts are unable to give effective guidance to magistrate judges on how to interpret ECPA’s complex provisions in light of changing technology; and citizens are not informed about the extent of government intrusion into their electronic lives. With Congress on the sidelines, appellate courts not engaged, and the public in the dark, the balance between surveillance and privacy has shifted dramatically towards law enforcement, almost by default.

To get to his 30,000 estimate, Smith combined an earlier government survey with data from his own court’s docket, Ars Technica notes.

Smith calls for “structural changes” in the law to “eliminate unnecessary secrecy,” including an end to “automatic gagging” and sealing orders. He suggests a publicly available “warrant cover sheet” that features basic information about every electronic surveillance order.

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EPA Using Airborne Drones To Spy On Farmers In Nebraska And Iowa

June 4, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency is using aerial drones to spy on farmers in Nebraska and Iowa. The surveillance came under scrutiny last week when Nebraska’s congressional delegation sent a joint letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

On Friday, EPA officialdom in “Region 7” responded to the letter.

“Courts, including the Supreme Court, have found similar types of flights to be legal (for example to take aerial photographs of a chemical manufacturing facility) and EPA would use such flights in appropriate instances to protect people and the environment from violations of the Clean Water Act,” the agency said in response to the letter.

“They are just way on the outer limits of any authority they’ve been granted,” said Mike Johanns, a Republican senator from Nebraska.

In fact, the EPA has absolutely zero authority and is an unconstitutional entity of an ever-expanding and rogue federal government. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution does not authorize Congress to legislate in the area of the environment. Under the Tenth Amendment, this authority is granted to the states and their legislatures, not the federal government.

The EPA has not addressed the constitutional question, including its wanton violation of probable cause under the Fourth Amendment. It merely states that it has authority to surveil the private property of farmers and ranchers. It defends its encroaching behavior as “cost-efficient.”

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Law Enforcement Officials Refuse To Identify Who Owns Or Uses License Plate Readers/Cameras Being Installed On Lawrence County New York Utility Poles

June 2, 2012

ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY, NEW YORK – Some area law enforcement officials apparently know who is installing the mysterious camera boxes on utility poles around St. Lawrence County, but they’re not saying who it is.

The boxes, with a window for cameras to peer out of, have popped up in Norwood, Raymondville, DeKalb Junction, Waddington, Massena and Canton, according to witnesses.

Law enforcement officials at local, state and federal agencies agree the boxes contain license plate readers that take snapshots, and are not video cameras that send live feeds. But none of them are willing to identify what agency the cameras belong to and who is operating them.

The cameras appear to be identical to license plate readers advertised on web sites as containing a visible light camera, infrared camera and an infrared light source. The cameras can read plates on passing vehicles, record the plate number, date, time and location, send it to a database for storage, and alert law enforcement if it detects a vehicle or driver being sought.

They are similar to vehicle-mounted units that St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells says his department has been using for 10 years.

But about the pole-mounted cameras, Sheriff Wells says, “They are not mine.”

A spokesperson from National Grid, the major electric distributor in the region, said the company periodically agrees to requests from police agencies for placement of such devices on utility poles, but they are not permitted to reveal any details about whose cameras they are or where they might be.

National Grid’s Virginia Limmiatis, a senior media relations representative in Syracuse, said their policy “authorizes the user to plug into our system. Under the agreement they are required to install and maintain their own equipment.” The user will get a bill for a usage fee. But she couldn’t say whose cameras these are.

Meanwhile, a box Massena Electric employees found on one of their poles was turned over to the Massena Police Department. “We didn’t even know it was a camera,” said Superintendent Andrew McMahon. “We called the village police to pick it up.”

Massena Police Chief Timmy Currier said he returned it to the owner, but wouldn’t say how he knew who the owner was, nor would he say who he gave it to.

A Border Patrol operations officer in the sector station in Swanton, Vt., said he had no knowledge about the use of the cameras. He referred questions to an investigator apparently associated with Franklin County law enforcement, who said he knew about other cameras, but didn’t know about deployment of license plate readers, and wouldn’t discuss it further.

State Police Lt. Kevin Boyea of Troop B said he has no knowledge of the cameras, their origin or their purpose.

However, not all police agencies were aware of the boxes. After discussing it at a periodic meeting of police chiefs from around the county this morning, Wells said, “none of the local chiefs were ever contacted about the existence of these cameras.”

Several of the law enforcement representatives said use of cameras – license plate readers and surveillance cameras – is increasing, and while we might not be used to such scrutiny in the North Country, each cited reports about how people living in cities should expect to be on camera at any given moment.

“Any time you travel in an urban area, you will see lots of cameras,” said Sheriff Wells. Many, he said, are designed to record drivers who go through red lights, and there are many other uses. “They’re designed to assist police. They are a tool for investigators.”

But any law enforcement agency that wants data stored by the cameras can have access to it if they need it and can show why. But they can’t tell us who they send their requests to.

McMahon, the superintendent at Massena Electric Department, said one of his crews found a box on one of their poles and took it down because “it was in the electric space,” the top tier of wires on the pole above the telephone and cable TV wires, and whoever put it there had taken a chance with electrocution. He said they had never received a request or been informed about its placement.

McMahon said whoever put it there might have thought the pole belonged to National Grid, and that it wouldn’t be the first time a mistake like that had happened. He said National Grid themselves had once replaced a damaged Massena Electric pole without knowing it.

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Bomb Threat Prompts Evacuation Of Under Construction NSA Spy Facility On Military Base In Utah

May 21, 2012

UTAH – A bomb threat forced the evacuation of a National Security Agency facility under construction in Utah on Monday but investigators found nothing suspicious, an FBI spokeswoman said.

The site for the spy agency is being built at Camp Williams, a military base just south of Salt Lake City. The Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing the project.

FBI spokeswoman Deborah Bertram declined to say how the threat was received but said it led to an evacuation at the site.

FBI agents spent several hours at the site after the threat was received. “We found nothing suspicious,” Bertram said.

U.S. officials have released few details on the purpose of the National Security Agency center.

The agency is in charge of collecting and analyzing foreign communications and protecting U.S. government communications and information systems.

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Spy Drone Nearly Causes Mid-Air Collision Over Denver Colorado

May 17, 2012

DENVER, COLORADO – A mystery object, thought to be a military or law enforcement drone, flying in controlled airspace over Denver almost caused a catastrophic mid air crash with a commercial jet Monday.

The pilot of the Cessna jet radioed air traffic controllers to warn them that “A remote controlled aircraft” had flown past his plane far too close for comfort.

“Something just went by the other way … About 20 to 30 seconds ago. It was like a large remote-controlled aircraft.” the pilot said in the transmission that was captured on the live air traffic audio website liveatc.net.

The craft was reported as being about 8,000 feet above sea level, or about 2,800 feet above the ground, at the time the pilot reported the seeing it. It did not show up on radar.

The type of drones used by NATO typically fly at 10,000 feet and below. Other tactical military drones can fly up to 18,000 feet.

Denver 9News reports that the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident, which it has described as potentially “extremely dangerous.”

“The threat is there from a collision standpoint,” an FAA spokesman said.

In a statement to USA Today, the agency said: “The FAA is investigating the incident and will try to positively identify the object the Citation pilot reported, where it came from and who was operating it.”

Aviation expert and former NTSB investigator Greg Feith told 9News that he believed the object could have been either a military or police drone.

“We have something in controlled airspace that poses a danger,” Feith added.

Watch the report:

As we reported yesterday, the federal government is rolling out new rules on the use of the unmanned drones this week, with the Federal Aviation Administration announcing procedures will “streamline” the process through which government agencies, including local law enforcement, receive licenses to operate the aircraft.

Congress recently passed legislation paving the way for what the FAA predicts will be somewhere in the region of 30,000 drones in operation in US skies by 2020.

Privacy advocates have warned that the FAA has not acted to establish any safeguards whatsoever, and that congress is not holding the agency to account.

In addition, a recently uncovered Air Force document circumvents laws and clears the way for the Pentagon to use drones to monitor the activities of Americans.

Constitutional and legal expert Judge Andrew Napolitano, and his Fox News colleague Charles Krauthammer have both warned that the drones could become a literal shooting target for Americans protesting their illegal use for surveillance by the government and the military.

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New Jersey Judge: First American Patriot To Shoot Down Spy Drone Will Be A Hero

May 17, 2012

NEW JERSEY – Judge Andrew Napolitano has warned Congress not to act “like potted plants” regarding the increased use of unmanned surveillance drones without warrants over US skies by military, government, and law enforcement agencies.

Echoing the recent comments of his Fox News colleague Charles Krauthammer, Napolitano also said that “The first American patriot that shoots down one of these drones that comes too close to his children in his backyard will be an American hero.”

The federal government is rolling out new rules on the use of the unmanned drones this week, with the Federal Aviation Administration announcing procedures will “streamline” the process through which government agencies, including local law enforcement, receive licenses to operate the aircraft.

Privacy advocates have warned that the FAA has not acted to establish any privacy safeguards whatsoever, and that congress is not holding the agency to account.

A recently uncovered Air Force document also circumvents laws and clears the way for the Pentagon to use drones to monitor the activities of Americans.

The Air Force instruction, dated April 23, admits that the Air Force cannot legally conduct “nonconsensual surveillance” on Americans, but also states that should the drones”incidentally” capture data while conducting other missions, military intelligence has the right to study it to determine whether the subjects are legitimate targets of domestic surveillance.

“The same Congress that let the president bomb Libya is going to let his Air Force spy in our backyards and like potted plants, they’ll look the other way,” Judge Napolitano urged yesterday.

“The Third Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment and the Ninth Amendment were written to guarantee us the right to be left alone … Suddenly the government, silently, from 30,000 feet above is violating those amendments,” he added.

As we reported in February, over 30 prominent watchdog groups have banded together to petition the FAA on the proposed increase in the use of drones in US airspace.

The groups, including The American Civil Liberties Union, The Electronic Privacy Information Center, and The Bill of Rights Defense Committee, submitted a petition demanding that the FAA hold a rulemaking session to consider the privacy and safety threats.

Congress recently passed legislation paving the way for what the FAA predicts will be somewhere in the region of 30,000 drones in operation in US skies by 2020.

The ACLU noted that the FAA’s legislation “would push the nation willy-nilly toward an era of aerial surveillance without any steps to protect the traditional privacy that Americans have always enjoyed and expected.”

In addition to privacy concerns, the groups warned that the ability to link facial recognition technology to surveillance drones and patch the information through to active government databases would “increase the First Amendment risks for would be political dissidents.”

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FAA To Ease Rules For Domestic Use Of Surveillance Aircraft To Spy On US Citizens In America

May 15, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA — Surveillance aircraft used by the U.S. military overseas could soon be coming to the skies above Los Angeles County.

KNX 1070′s Charles Feldman reports the Federal Aviation Administration is making it easier for local law enforcement agencies to fly unmanned drones.

The FAA has streamlined the process that would allow agencies to fly smaller, unarmed versions of the drones that hunt down terrorists in places such as Pakistan and Afghanistan.

While the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has not yet applied for an application to fly drones over our skies, its Homeland Security chief Bob Osborne said drones could be in the department’s future — with some caveats.

“We have so much congestion in the skies that I would anticipate that there would be some pretty rigid safety standards,” said Osborne.

Drones are typically used over locations where helicopters and fixed wing aircraft are unable to fly, which Osborne said could have a myriad of applications here in the Southland.

“Mountain rescue, where you have a car over the side that’s a thousand feet down the cliff, oftentimes our aircraft can’t fly that low,” he said. “It would be wonderful to know what’s down there before we send a rescue crew.”

Federal officials already utilize drones to patrol a 1,200-mile wide swath of land east of San Diego near the southeast California border.

But the recent expansion of drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) above American cities has raised privacy concerns among some who believe the technology could be used for surveillance on U.S. citizens without their knowledge.

President Obama set a deadline in February for the FAA to draft legislation by May 14 that would determine how it will regulate the use of lightweight drones by police and other public safety agencies.

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US Air Force Doesn’t Have A Problem With Spying On Americans With Unmanned Drones

May 13, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – A newly discovered Air Force intelligence brief states that should fleets of unmanned drones accidentally capture surveillance footage of Americans, the data can be stored and analyzed by the Pentagon for up to 90 days.

The instruction, dated April 23, admits that the Air Force cannot legally conduct “nonconsensual surveillance” on Americans, but also states that should the drones”incidentally” capture data while conducting other missions, military intelligence has the right to study it to determine whether the subjects are legitimate targets of domestic surveillance.

“Collected imagery may incidentally include US persons or private property without consent,” the instruction states.

The Air Force can take advantage of “a period not to exceed 90 days” to use the data to assess “whether that information may be collected under the provisions of Procedure 2, DoD 5240.1-R and permanently retained under the provisions of Procedure 3, DoD 5240.1-R.” it continues.

The Pentagon directives cited authorize limited domestic spying in certain scenarios such as natural disasters, environmental cases, and monitoring activity around military bases.

Should the drones capture data on Americans, the Air Force says that it should determine whether they are, among other things, “persons or organizations reasonably believed to be engaged or about to engage, in international terrorist or international narcotics activities.”

A d v e r t i s e m e n t

The instruction also states that the Pentagon can disseminate the data to other intelligence and government agencies, should it see fit.

“Even though information may not be collectible, it may be retained for the length of time necessary to transfer it to another DoD entity or government agency to whose function it pertains.” the document reads.

The document was discovered by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists.

As we reported in February, Over 30 prominent watchdog groups have banded together to petition the FAA on the proposed increase in the use of drones in US airspace.

The groups, including The American Civil Liberties Union, The Electronic Privacy Information Center and The Bill of Rights Defense Committee, are demanding that the FAA hold a rulemaking session to consider the privacy and safety threats.

Congress recently passed legislation paving the way for what the FAA predicts will be somewhere in the region of 30,000 drones in operation in US skies by 2020.

The ACLU noted that the FAA’s legislation “would push the nation willy-nilly toward an era of aerial surveillance without any steps to protect the traditional privacy that Americans have always enjoyed and expected.”

In addition to privacy concerns, the groups warned that the ability to link facial recognition technology to surveillance drones and patch the information through to active government databases would “increase the First Amendment risks for would be political dissidents.”

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New York City Police Efforts To Spy On Students In The Northeast Called “Disgusting”

February 26, 2012

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – At Columbia University and elsewhere, the fear that the New York Police Department might secretly be infiltrating Muslim students’ lives has spread beyond them to others who find the reported tactics “disgusting,” as one teenager put it.

The NYPD surveillance of Muslims on a dozen college campuses in the Northeast is a surprising and disappointing violation, students said Saturday in reaction to Associated Press reports that revealed the intelligence-gathering at Columbia and elsewhere.

“If this is happening to innocent Muslim students, who’s next?” asked freshman Dina Morris, 18, of Amherst, Mass. “I’m the child of an immigrant, and I was just blown away by the news; it’s disgusting.”

Documents obtained by the AP show that the NYPD used undercover officers and informants to infiltrate Muslim student groups. An officer even went whitewater rafting with students and reported on how many times they prayed and what they discussed. Police also trawled college websites and blogs, compiling daily reports on the activities of Muslim students and academics.

It was all part of the NYPD’s efforts to keep tabs on Muslims throughout the region as part of the department’s anti-terrorism efforts. Police built databases of where Muslims lived and worked, where they prayed, even where they watched sports.

In the past week, Muslims and non-Muslims alike held a town hall meeting on the Manhattan campus of the Ivy League college to discuss the police surveillance. Concerned members of many school groups attended.

On Friday, some of their counterparts at New York University choked up as they gathered to voice their outrage at the notion that even students’ religious habits were being tracked by the NYPD.

“Why is the number of times that we pray per day – whether or not I come in this space and put my forehead on the floor in worship of my Lord – why does that have anything to do with somebody trying to keep this country safe?” said Elizabeth Dann, 29, an NYU law student.

At first, when it was revealed last weekend that Muslim students were targets of police surveillance, “people were distressed and frazzled,” Mona Abdullah, a member of Columbia’s Muslim Students Association, told the AP.

But by Saturday, she said, a different mood descended on the campus.

“We’re now feeling a sense of unity, because this is not an issue that affects only Muslims,” said Abdullah, 20, who is majoring in political science and Middle Eastern studies. “We’re still worried, but there’s also a sense of solidarity over an issue that has to be taken seriously by everyone.”

Students are also feeling empathy for those outside the university community who are being subjected to the NYPD’s “stop-and-frisk” policy targeting anyone who seems suspicious, mainly blacks and Hispanics.

“We’re not the first and we’re definitely not going to be the last,” Abdullah said.

Police were interested in Muslim student groups because they attracted young men, a demographic that terrorist groups have tapped. The NYPD defended the effort, citing a dozen accused or convicted terrorists worldwide who had once been affiliated with Muslim student groups.

But students say that unfairly categorizes them all as potential terrorists.

The Muslim students “are just as American as anyone, and to make them feel unsafe and unwanted is really unfair!” said Morris, who attends Barnard College, which is affiliated with Columbia.

“There was a lot of police blowback after 9/11; they were not respecting civil liberties,” said Leo Schwartz, 19, a political science major and columnist for Columbia’s student newspaper, the Daily Spectator.

Anmol Gupta, 22, an engineering student, said that in a city like New York, which prides itself on ethnic diversity, “the idea of the surveillance of Muslims does surprise me, it’s disturbing.”

Sitting on a bench, he glanced across the university’s quad at the students of many races and faiths who were walking around on a chilly winter day.

Gupta said he didn’t feel students could do anything to stop the surveillance.

They certainly shouldn’t do anything to change how they live from day to day – even if they’re afraid they’re being watched, Abdullah said. “We’re saying, `Don’t change the way you act, don’t change anything you do, because we’re not doing anything wrong.'”

Still, many on the campus of more than 25,000 students craved reassurance.

University President Lee Bollinger plans to host a fireside chat on Monday evening to discuss the secret monitoring.

He said in a statement Friday: “We should all be able to appreciate the deeply personal concerns of the Muslim members of our community in learning that their activities were being monitored – and the chilling effect such governmental efforts have on any of us in a university devoted to the foundational values of free speech and association.”

On Saturday, the unanswered question among Columbia students remained: Is the NYPD still conducting surveillance on students?

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Friday: “We’re going to continue to do what we have to do to protect the city.”

He did not elaborate.

And Mayor Michael Bloomberg said his police department’s monitoring of Muslims – even outside the city at colleges in Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and upstate New York – was “legal,” “appropriate” and “constitutional.”

Authorities left open what students most wanted answered – “if and when the surveillance ended,” Abdullah said.

“I don’t think it has ended.”

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FBI Wants Lots More Stuff To Use To Spy On American Citizens

January 27, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The US Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking for a tool to mine social media for intelligence tips.

The US domestic law enforcement agency is asking information technology contractors about the feasibility of building a tool that would “enhance its techniques for collecting and sharing ‘open source’ actionable intelligence.”

The January 19 open request was published on a website offering federal business opportunities and was first reported by New Scientist magazine.

The FBI said it is seeking an “open source and social media alert, mapping and analysis application solution” for its Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC).

“Social media has become a primary source of intelligence because it has become the premier first response to key events and the primal alert to possible developing situations,” the FBI request said.

“Intelligence analysts will often use social media to receive the first tip-off that a crisis has occurred,” it said.

The FBI said the tool “must have the ability to rapidly assemble critical open source information and intelligence that will allow SIOC to quickly vet, identity, and geo-locate breaking events, incidents and emerging threats.”

It would need to be able to “instantly search and monitor key words and strings in all ‘publicly available’ tweets across the Twitter site and any other ‘publicly available’ social networking sites/forums.”

It would also need the ability to “search the data across a myriad of parameters and view terrorist activities by location, terrorist group, and type of attack and see trends and analytics.”

In addition, it would have to be able “to immediately translate into English, tweets and any other open forum publically available social media captured in a foreign language.”

Interested parties have until February 10 to respond to the FBI request.

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Federal Goverment Hiding Data On Domestic Use Of Drone Aircraft

January 12, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The domestic use of stealth drones to survey America from the skies is no joke. The Department of Homeland Security has acknowledged that the US government has used the planes on the home front for years, but why and how is largely unknown.

An advocacy group aims to change that.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit based out of San Francisco, California, filed a Freedom of Information Act request back in April to learn more about domestic drone use in America. Eight months later, the Department of Transportation (and its subdivision that deals directly with domestic drones, the Federal Aviation Administration), has failed to follow through. On Tuesday this week, the EFF responded by formally filing a suit against the DoT, “Demanding data on certifications and authorizations the agency has issued for the operation of unmanned aircraft, also known as drones.”

Aside from what is leaked out of the Pentagon to the media, much isn’t clear about drone use except for a seemingly endless series of misadventures that have plagued the Department of Defense in recent months. As the US military continues drone operations overseas, the craft fleets have been linked to the firing of missiles, the monitoring of both insurgents and civilians and escalating tensions between the US and Iran. In terms of military use, drone operations have yielded widespread opposition from the likes of constitutional rights advocates, presidential candidate Ron Paul and the American Civil Liberties Union. Regardless, the government is only adding an arsenal of more and more craft to its fleet every month, adding international bases and investing billions in new unmanned planes.

American drone missions overseas are being launched for obvious reasons, despite how the government describes it. Domestic use, however, is largely kept in the shadows and is rarely discussed. San Francisco’s EFF says that at least 285 missions have occurred in America, but they want to know more about them. The US government, however, is being far from accommodation in regards to their request.

With the filing of the suit on Tuesday, the EFF hopes that they will be able to finally let the public understand why spy planes are being flown through American skies without the people of the country given any reason or warning as to why.

“There is currently no information available to the public on which specific public and civil entities have applied for, been granted or been denied certificates or authorizations to fly unmanned aircraft in the United States,” the EFF’s complaint says. In April they filed their FOIA request for information, and with no response nearly a year later, they have determined that by September of 2011, almost 300 missions by 85 separate users were certified by the FAA in all. The FAA, a component of the DOT, approves all domestic drone missions. A recent report revealed that the they are currently in the works to approve non-federal use of the spy craft planes in the US, drafting a legislation that will umbrella any local law enforcement unit to deploy drones as they would a street cruiser or bike cop.

“This is a tool that many law enforcement agencies never imagined they could have,” Steven Gitlin of AeroVironment Inc. told the Los Angeles Times in November. His company is already in the works to supply law enforcement agencies with 18,000 of small drone crafts once the FAA grants them clearance.

In the meantime, however, the federal government continues to operate these missions without explaining why. Such a shadowy-nature has only increased paranoia for Americans skeptic of the Big Brother branding near synonymous with the Obama administration, and an ongoing assault on the civil liberties of citizens is driving those previously unaware of drones to disavow the use.

“The use of drones in American airspace could dramatically increase the physical tracking of citizens – tracking that can reveal deeply personal details about our private lives,” EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch says in a statement. “Drones give the government and other unmanned aircraft operators a powerful new surveillance tool to gather extensive and intrusive data on Americans’ movements and activities,” she adds, noting that the usage rises “significant privacy concerns.”

“We’re asking the DOT to follow the law and respond to our FOIA request so we can learn more about who is flying the drones and why,” Lynch pleads in explaining the suit.

While America waits for the truth, they are left with only one option: to prefer for the worst and cover their tracks.

Appeared Here


Out Of Control Maryland State Police Officers Spy On Nonviolent Groups, Falsely Label Dozens Of Citizens As "Terrorists" – Including Nuns And Woman Who Makes Puppets

December 7, 2008

TAKOMA PARK, MARYLAND – To friends in the protest movement, Lucy was an eager 20-something who attended their events and sent encouraging e-mails to support their causes.

Only one thing seemed strange.

“At one demonstration, I remember her showing up with a laptop computer and typing away,” said Mike Stark, who helped lead the anti-death-penalty march in Baltimore that day. “We all thought that was odd.”

Not really. The woman was an undercover Maryland State Police trooper who between 2005 and 2007 infiltrated more than two dozen rallies and meetings of nonviolent groups.

Maryland officials now concede that, based on information gathered by “Lucy” and others, state police wrongly listed at least 53 Americans as terrorists in a criminal intelligence database — and shared some information about them with half a dozen state and federal agencies, including the National Security Agency.

Among those labeled as terrorists: two Catholic nuns, a former Democratic congressional candidate, a lifelong pacifist and a registered lobbyist. One suspect’s file warned that she was “involved in puppet making and allows anarchists to utilize her property for meetings.”

“There wasn’t a scintilla of illegal activity” going on, said David Rocah, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit and in July obtained the first surveillance files. State police have released other heavily redacted documents.

Investigators, the files show, targeted groups that advocated against abortion, global warming, nuclear arms, military recruiting in high schools and biodefense research, among other issues.

“It was unconscionable conduct,” said Democratic state Sen. Brian Frosh, who is backing legislation to ban similar spying in Maryland unless the police superintendent can document a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” of criminal activity.

The case is the latest to emerge since the Sept. 11 attacks spurred a sharp increase in state and federal surveillance of Americans. Critics say such investigations violate constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and assembly, and serve to inhibit lawful dissent.

In the largest known effort, the Pentagon monitored at least 186 lawful protests and meetings — including church services and silent vigils — in California and other states.

The military also compiled more than 2,800 reports on Americans in a database of supposed terrorist threats. That program, known as TALON, was ordered closed in 2007 after it was exposed in news reports.

The Maryland operation also has ended, but critics still question why police spent hundreds of hours spying on Quakers and other peace groups in a state that reported more than 36,000 violent crimes last year.

Stephen Sachs, a former state attorney general, investigated the scandal for Gov. Martin O’Malley — a Democrat elected in 2006. He concluded that state police had violated federal regulations and “significantly overreached.”

According to Sachs’ 93-page report and other documents, state police launched the operation in March 2005 out of concern that the planned execution of a convicted murderer might lead to violent protests.

They sent Lucy to join local activists at Takoma Park’s Electrik Maid, a funky community center popular with punk rockers and slam poets. Ten people attended the gathering, including a local representative from Amnesty International.

“The meeting was primarily concerned with getting people to put up fliers and getting information out to local businesses and churches about the upcoming events,” the undercover officer reported later. “No other pertinent intelligence information was obtained.”

That proved true for all 29 meetings, rallies and protests that Lucy ultimately attended. Most drew only a handful of people, and none involved illegal or disruptive actions.

Using the aliases Lucy Shoup and Lucy McDonald, she befriended activists. “I want to get involved in different causes,” she wrote in an e-mail, citing her interest in “anti-death penalty, antiwar and pro-animal actions!!!”

Max Obuszewski, a Baltimore pacifist who leads antiwar protests, said Lucy asked about civil disobedience, but didn’t instigate any. “She never volunteered to do anything, not even hand out leaflets,” he said. “She was not an agent provocateur.”

Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman, said that no one in the department had been disciplined in connection with the spying program. Lucy, who has not been publicly identified, would not consent to an interview, he said.

The surveillance, Shipley said, was inappropriate. And the listing of lawful activity as terrorism “shouldn’t have happened, and has been corrected.”

Most of the files list terrorism as a “primary crime” and a “secondary crime,” then add subgroups for designations such as antiwar protester.

Some contain errors and inconsistencies that are almost comical.

Nancy Kricorian, 48, a novelist on the terrorist list, is coordinator for the New York City chapter of CodePink, an antiwar group. She serves as liaison with local police for group protests, and has never been arrested.

“I have no idea why I made the list,” she said. “I’ve never been to the state of Maryland, except maybe to stop for gas on the way to Washington.”

Josh Tulkin, 27, a registered lobbyist with the Virginia state Legislature, is cited under “terrorism — environmental extremists.” Tulkin was deputy director of Chesapeake Climate Action Network, an environmental group that claims 15,000 members and regularly meets with governors and members of Congress.

“If asking your elected officials a question about public policy is a crime, then I’m guilty,” he said.

Barry Kissin, 57, a lawyer who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2006, heads the Frederick Progressive Action Coalition, a group that works “for social, economic and environmental justice,” according to his police file. Their protests “are always peaceful,” it added.

He was labeled “Terrorism — Anti-Government.”

Nadine Bloch, 47, runs workshops for protest groups that seek corporate responsibility and builds huge papier-mache puppets often used in street marches. Her terrorism file indicates she participated in a Taking Action for Animals conference in Washington on July 16-18, 2005.

Animal rights, Bloch said, is one of the few causes she doesn’t actively embrace. Besides, she was attending an educators conference in Hawaii that week as a contractor for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“This whole thing,” she said, “is so absurd.”

Appeared Here


Out Of Control Maryland State Police Officers Spy On Nonviolent Groups, Falsely Label Dozens Of Citizens As "Terrorists" – Including Nuns And Woman Who Makes Puppets

December 7, 2008

TAKOMA PARK, MARYLAND – To friends in the protest movement, Lucy was an eager 20-something who attended their events and sent encouraging e-mails to support their causes.

Only one thing seemed strange.

“At one demonstration, I remember her showing up with a laptop computer and typing away,” said Mike Stark, who helped lead the anti-death-penalty march in Baltimore that day. “We all thought that was odd.”

Not really. The woman was an undercover Maryland State Police trooper who between 2005 and 2007 infiltrated more than two dozen rallies and meetings of nonviolent groups.

Maryland officials now concede that, based on information gathered by “Lucy” and others, state police wrongly listed at least 53 Americans as terrorists in a criminal intelligence database — and shared some information about them with half a dozen state and federal agencies, including the National Security Agency.

Among those labeled as terrorists: two Catholic nuns, a former Democratic congressional candidate, a lifelong pacifist and a registered lobbyist. One suspect’s file warned that she was “involved in puppet making and allows anarchists to utilize her property for meetings.”

“There wasn’t a scintilla of illegal activity” going on, said David Rocah, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit and in July obtained the first surveillance files. State police have released other heavily redacted documents.

Investigators, the files show, targeted groups that advocated against abortion, global warming, nuclear arms, military recruiting in high schools and biodefense research, among other issues.

“It was unconscionable conduct,” said Democratic state Sen. Brian Frosh, who is backing legislation to ban similar spying in Maryland unless the police superintendent can document a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” of criminal activity.

The case is the latest to emerge since the Sept. 11 attacks spurred a sharp increase in state and federal surveillance of Americans. Critics say such investigations violate constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and assembly, and serve to inhibit lawful dissent.

In the largest known effort, the Pentagon monitored at least 186 lawful protests and meetings — including church services and silent vigils — in California and other states.

The military also compiled more than 2,800 reports on Americans in a database of supposed terrorist threats. That program, known as TALON, was ordered closed in 2007 after it was exposed in news reports.

The Maryland operation also has ended, but critics still question why police spent hundreds of hours spying on Quakers and other peace groups in a state that reported more than 36,000 violent crimes last year.

Stephen Sachs, a former state attorney general, investigated the scandal for Gov. Martin O’Malley — a Democrat elected in 2006. He concluded that state police had violated federal regulations and “significantly overreached.”

According to Sachs’ 93-page report and other documents, state police launched the operation in March 2005 out of concern that the planned execution of a convicted murderer might lead to violent protests.

They sent Lucy to join local activists at Takoma Park’s Electrik Maid, a funky community center popular with punk rockers and slam poets. Ten people attended the gathering, including a local representative from Amnesty International.

“The meeting was primarily concerned with getting people to put up fliers and getting information out to local businesses and churches about the upcoming events,” the undercover officer reported later. “No other pertinent intelligence information was obtained.”

That proved true for all 29 meetings, rallies and protests that Lucy ultimately attended. Most drew only a handful of people, and none involved illegal or disruptive actions.

Using the aliases Lucy Shoup and Lucy McDonald, she befriended activists. “I want to get involved in different causes,” she wrote in an e-mail, citing her interest in “anti-death penalty, antiwar and pro-animal actions!!!”

Max Obuszewski, a Baltimore pacifist who leads antiwar protests, said Lucy asked about civil disobedience, but didn’t instigate any. “She never volunteered to do anything, not even hand out leaflets,” he said. “She was not an agent provocateur.”

Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman, said that no one in the department had been disciplined in connection with the spying program. Lucy, who has not been publicly identified, would not consent to an interview, he said.

The surveillance, Shipley said, was inappropriate. And the listing of lawful activity as terrorism “shouldn’t have happened, and has been corrected.”

Most of the files list terrorism as a “primary crime” and a “secondary crime,” then add subgroups for designations such as antiwar protester.

Some contain errors and inconsistencies that are almost comical.

Nancy Kricorian, 48, a novelist on the terrorist list, is coordinator for the New York City chapter of CodePink, an antiwar group. She serves as liaison with local police for group protests, and has never been arrested.

“I have no idea why I made the list,” she said. “I’ve never been to the state of Maryland, except maybe to stop for gas on the way to Washington.”

Josh Tulkin, 27, a registered lobbyist with the Virginia state Legislature, is cited under “terrorism — environmental extremists.” Tulkin was deputy director of Chesapeake Climate Action Network, an environmental group that claims 15,000 members and regularly meets with governors and members of Congress.

“If asking your elected officials a question about public policy is a crime, then I’m guilty,” he said.

Barry Kissin, 57, a lawyer who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2006, heads the Frederick Progressive Action Coalition, a group that works “for social, economic and environmental justice,” according to his police file. Their protests “are always peaceful,” it added.

He was labeled “Terrorism — Anti-Government.”

Nadine Bloch, 47, runs workshops for protest groups that seek corporate responsibility and builds huge papier-mache puppets often used in street marches. Her terrorism file indicates she participated in a Taking Action for Animals conference in Washington on July 16-18, 2005.

Animal rights, Bloch said, is one of the few causes she doesn’t actively embrace. Besides, she was attending an educators conference in Hawaii that week as a contractor for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“This whole thing,” she said, “is so absurd.”

Appeared Here