Monthly Archives: December 2012

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SF Wireless ISP MonkeyBrains Tries To Crowdfund $325 Million For A Satellite

Well, this is amusing. San Francisco wireless ISP MonkeyBrains (who some friends use and love) has posted an IndieGogo crowdfunding project in which they’re seeking $325,000,000 (yes, that’s $325 million) to build a satellite to deliver internet acces… Continue reading

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Apparently, Congress Isn’t Actually Interested In Requiring A Warrant For Law Enforcement To Read Your Email

Yes, we’ve already covered the rejection of key amendments in the FISA Amendments Act renewal, but that wasn’t the only case of Congress ignoring the public’s privacy concerns as they close out this session.

Back in September, we noted that Senator Pa… Continue reading

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DailyDirt: Watching Our Weight…

One of the most common new year’s resolutions is to try to lose weight and stick to a diet in the coming year. It’s an especially obvious resolution to make after eating way too much at family gatherings. Here are just a few links on the topic of eatin… Continue reading

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Doing Data Journalism Badly

While there was a lot of rhetoric concerning the Instagram terms of service mess recently, most observers of these kinds of things noted that for all the claims from people that they were “quitting” the service, few people ever actually follow through … Continue reading

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Guest on Non-Breaking Space

I got to hang out with the crew at NBSP for their end of year special!

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MTP’s David Gregory Does Journalism, Some Citizens Want His Arrest

The ripple effects from the Sandy Hook tragedy continue to present themselves. When something so horrific occurs, it’s not difficult to understand over-the-top reactions, but that doesn’t mean those reactions shouldn’t be kept in check. We had folks ru… Continue reading

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More Post-Newtown Fallout: Gun Owners Vs. Journalists In New York

The Connecticut school shooting has pushed the discussion of gun control back into the media spotlight, along with providing a convenient soapbox for lawmakers, lobbying groups and pundits willing to politicize tragedies to push their agendas through. … Continue reading

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Philippine Government Ignores Public Concerns, Continues To Push Extreme ‘Cybercrime’ Law

One of the striking — and depressing — features of the Internet today is the almost universal desire of governments around the world to rein it in through new laws. We wrote about one such attempt in the Philippines a couple of months ago, where the… Continue reading

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EPIC Sues CIA For Release Of Documents Concerning Domestic Spying It Swears It’s Not Doing

We’ve written several times before about domestic spying being performed by the government agencies, most of which is performed under the protective guise of “national security” as part of the “War on Terror.” The end result tends to be diminished rights rather than something more positive, like “terrorists caught.”

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has been looking into the CIA's involvement in domestic surveillance, something the CIA is definitely not supposed to be doing.

Beginning in 2011, a series of investigative articles by the Associated Press (“AP”) revealed that the New York Police Department (“NYPD”) conducted extensive surveillance of Muslims and persons of Arab descent in New York, New Jersey, and elsewhere. The NYPD’s activities included photographing members of the Muslim community as they entered mosques, infiltrating Muslim student groups, and monitoring Muslim stores and businesses. According to the AP, the “police subjected entire neighborhoods to surveillance and scrutiny, often because of the ethnicity of the residents, not because of any accusations of crimes.” The AP also reported, “many of these operations were built with help from the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency], which is prohibited from spying on Americans but was instrumental in transforming the NYPD's intelligence unit after 9/11.”

This looks like the CIA is at the very least heavily involved with domestic surveillance, if not actually doing the surveillance itself. The “investigations” themselves are questionable enough even without the possibility of a departmental “misstep” by the CIA, generally consisting of paid informants infiltrating the Muslim community and amassing as much information as possible when not attempting to bait community members into saying something inflammatory.

This new “elite” NYPD agency has been given leeway to assemble a massive database on the Muslim community and its activities and, to date, has produced nothing in the way of useful leads. Despite this fact, the operations continue undeterred and everyone from the NYC police commissioner to various CIA spokespersons have acknowledged the CIA's ongoing “collaborative relationship” with the NYPD domestic spying program.

According to the CIA, the agency isn't performing the surveillance itself and is, therefore, staying within its legal boundaries.

In December 2011 the Associated Press described an investigation by the CIA Inspector General regarding the agency’s collaboration with NYPD. CIA spokesman Preston Golson acknowledged the existence of this investigation and stated that the agency's Inspector General concluded that no laws were broken and there was “no evidence that any part of the agency's support to the NYPD constituted 'domestic spying.”

In essence, the CIA aids with the spying, but doesn't actually perform the spying. Golson's statement in reference to the internal investigation is obviously meant to be the final word on the matter, but relies heavily on the public's credulity in regards to secretive agencies conducting in-house investigations whose results remain hidden from view. In that respect, Golson's statement failed miserably.

According to USA Today, “The revelations troubled some members of Congress and even prompted the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, to remark that it did not look good for the CIA to be involved in any city police department. Thirty-four lawmakers have asked for the Justice Department to investigate but so far that request has gone nowhere.” At a March 2012 hearing, Attorney General Holder told Congress “he's disturbed by what he's read about the New York Police Department conducting surveillance of mosques and Islamic student organizations in New Jersey.”

You know something has gone wrong when Eric Holder thinks you've gone too far. Golson's “everything's cool” statement notwithstanding, EPIC decided to look into the CIA's involvement with the NYPD's surveillance programs.

On March 28, 2012, EPIC submitted a FOIA request to CIA asking for:

  • All documents related to the CIA Inspector General’s investigation regarding the agency’s collaboration with NYPD;
  • All legal analyses conducted by the CIA Inspector General’s office regarding the CIA’s collaboration with the NYPD;
  • All final reports issued as a result of the CIA Inspector General’s investigation;
  • Any communications between the CIA Inspector General’s office and the NYPD regarding the agency’s collaboration with the NYPD.

Unsurprisingly, the CIA has been rather reluctant to hand over any of the requested information. So reluctant, in fact, that it now finds itself on the receiving end of a lawsuit filed by EPIC after “failing to disclose a single record.” EPIC's complaint quotes the CIA as stating it was too busy to fulfill the requests because of a “substantial backlog.” While that could very well be true, this is also information that the CIA would very likely prefer to not make public. It's also an excuse many other government agencies have used — a built-in stalling tactic greatly aided by these agencies' preference towards only giving up information when forced to do so.

Obviously, it will be a long time before any information shakes loose from this internal investigation. EPIC still has to win the lawsuit before any “compelled” release of documents begins. There's also bound to be an appeal or two, along with the usual bureaucratic delays built into the process. And there's also the “state secret” wildcard, one that permanently removes documents from the public eye. Still, it's a worthwhile effort EPIC is making, one that will shed light on a very shady collaboration between the CIA and the NYPD, whether or not the results of this internal investigation are ever made public.

EPIC v CIA Complaint (PDF)

EPIC v CIA Complaint (Text)

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Judge Rules Woman Is Allowed To Flip Off Neighbors With Xmas Lights For Now

As I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before, I am exceptionally comfortable with profanity, and believe it's a form of free speech that should be protected. The right to say words does not end because of the interpretation of those words by so… Continue reading

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