ACLU Sues On Behalf Of PA Man Arrested For Recording Police Officer

By Guest Blogger on ThinkProgress.org, July 19, 2012

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Pennsylvania resident Gregory Rizer, who was arrested in January for recording a police officer aggressively questioning his quadriplegic friend. The officer also confiscated Rizer’s cell phone.

When Rizer complained to the mayor’s office about the arrest, the Point Marion Police Department arrested him at home and charged him with violating Pennsylvania’s wiretap law, which bans audio recording unless all parties consent. The district attorney has since removed the charges and returned Rizer’s cell phone – without the recording. The ACLU argues that Rizer was within his rights to record the officer because “the state’s Wiretap Act does not apply if the person being recorded does not have a reasonable ‘expectation of privacy.’” ACLU cooperating lawyer Glen Downey explained,

“The explosion of technology that allows almost every citizen to document and record the interactions between police and civilians makes it incumbent that both the officers and those seeking to record them understand that officers cannot shield themselves from public scrutiny by invoking wiretap laws. Police officers performing their official duties do not possess the requisite reasonable expectation of privacy necessary to be covered by the statute.”

There have been reports from across the country of police officers interfering with cell phone recording of their actions. Earlier this month, the New York City Police Department put out a flyer warning against a couple who record “stop-and-frisk” searches in the city. New York’s ACLU chapter released a phone app, “Stop-and-Frisk Watch,” to help New Yorkers hold police officers executing these controversial searches accountable.

Last week, New Jersey’s ACLU chapter released a similar app, “Police Tape,” an Android phone app that allows users to discreetly videotape and record police officers. The app also explains American civil rights and allows users to send recordings to ACLU databases for backup storage.

– Ben Sherman

Drones over Af-Pak, Drones over Iran, now Drones above your head

[In the hands of repressive authority–what many now recognize as a growing police state–these drones vastly expand the tools to be used to spy on and repress targeted communities, suppress political opposition movements, and to control all activities which the powers that be–however tyrannical, racist, militaristic, or suppressive they may be–determine to be unauthorized and unacceptable to them.  They will intensify the invasions of privacy and the restrictions on social mobility of curfews, checkpoints, and walls. — Frontlines ed.]

TPMMuckraker

One Nation Under The Drone: The Rising Number Of UAVs In American Skies

a Predator Drone

Jillian Rayfield December 22, 2011

A secret air show in Houston. An unmanned blimp in Utah. A sovereign citizen arrested in North Dakota.

Each of these is just one small part of the bigger story of the proliferation of unmanned aircraft use within the U.S., and each is likely to become smaller still if the FAA goes through with plans to loosen regulations governing domestic use of drones.

News reports about Predator attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan are common if not always complete, but what’s gotten much less attention is the increase in unarmed drones that are buzzing around within the U.S. itself. Primarily, unarmed Predator B drones are only used by government agents to patrol the borders for illegal immigrants, but there are a (very large) handful of other agencies and companies that use smaller, unarmed drones for a slew of other purposes. And that number is only expected to grow.

The FAA says that as of September 13, 2011, there were 285 active Certificates of Authorization (COA) for 85 different users, covering 82 different unmanned unarmed aircraft types.

Though the exact breakdown of the organizations who have authorization is unclear — and the FAA would not elaborate for “privacy” and “security” reasons — in January the Washington Post reported that as of December 1, 2010, 35% of the permissions were held by the Department of Defense, 11% by NASA, and 5% by the Department of Homeland Security. The FBI and law enforcement agencies also hold some, as do manufacturers and even academic institutions.

Between pressure from trade groups (like the drone manufacturers group the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International), proposed legislation from Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) to expand the number of drone testing sites in the U.S., and petitioning from states like Oklahoma for an approved 80-mile air corridor reserved exclusively for drone development and testing, there is great potential for drone use to expand within the U.S. in the next few years. Continue reading

Wall Street Journal: “Mideast Uses Western Tools to Battle the Skype Rebellion”

JUNE 1, 2011

By STEVE STECKLOW, PAUL SONNE and MATT BRADLEY

When young dissidents in Egypt were organizing an election-monitoring project last fall, they discussed their plans over Skype, the popular Internet phone service, believing it to be secure.

The Journal investigates the business of censorship and the use of Western technology by governments facing social unrest.

But someone else was listening in—Egypt’s security service.

An internal memo from the “Electronic Penetration Department” even boasted it had intercepted one conversation in which an activist stressed the importance of using Skype “because it cannot be penetrated online by any security device.”

Skype, which Microsoft Corp. is acquiring for $8.5 billion, is best known as a cheap way to make international phone calls. But the Luxembourg-based service also is the communications tool of choice for dissidents around the world because its powerful encryption technology evades traditional wiretaps. Continue reading