Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Making It Easy For The Man

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (July 10, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC. Click on image to enlarge and then please return.)

I admit it. I've become a real Luddite since I retired. I don't have an iPad, and have no intentions of buying one. I don't have satellite-delivered television or high speed internet. I don't even have a smart phone. I do have a cell phone, an old one by our current standards, but I keep it turned off and use it only in emergencies. I'm retired. I don't need to be "connected."

Still, I find this story more than a little troubling.

Mobile carriers responded to a staggering 1.3 million law enforcement requests last year for subscriber information, including text messages and phone location data, according to data provided to Congress. ...

The number of Americans affected each year by the growing use of mobile phone data by law enforcement could reach into the tens of millions, as a single request could ensnare dozens or even hundreds of people. Law enforcement has been asking for so-called “cell tower dumps” in which carriers disclose all phone numbers that connected to a given tower during a certain period of time.

So, for instance, if police wanted to try to find a person who broke a store window at an Occupy protest, it could get the phone numbers and identifying data of all protestors with mobile phones in the vicinity at the time — and use that data for other purposes. ...

...the Justice Department employs a covert internet and telephone surveillance method known as pen register and trap-and-trace capturing. Judges sign off on these telco orders when the authorities say the information is relevant to an investigation. No probable cause that the target committed a crime — the warrant standard — is necessary.

Pen registers obtain non-content information of outbound telephone and internet communications, such as phone numbers dialed, and the sender and recipient (and sometimes subject line) of an e-mail message. A trap-and-trace acquires the same information, but for inbound communications to a target. ...
[Emphasis added]

In other words, even the lax "rules" of the FISA system need not be followed. The government can simply state that it needs the info and permission is granted, Fourth Amendment be damned.

There's something dreadfully wrong with this picture.

I know that if the government wants to track me, it can simply monitor my emails and internet usage, even if it is on an antiquated dial-up system. But I'll be damned if I'll make it any easier for the "monitoring."

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