Archive for the ‘civil liberties oversight board’ Category

BTC – Digital Privacy, like most things over 35 years of age,  is in need of a little in need of shaping up around the middle as Senators push to update to electronic privacy law in spite of elections.

Almost on cue, Washington domestic intelligence agencies are expressing resistance to this new regimen of reduced budget diet and political exercise to cut the fat.

To start, DHS is asking to be exempted from the dated provisions in the 1974 Privacy Act in a new National Proposed Rule or NPRM concerning “electronic records”.  Yes, that would include e-mail, phone calls and anything else that creates a record from an electronic pulse. This is possibly so they won’t have to pass an additional appropriations bill or comply with the development of more stringent Privacy codes designed to protect citizens from non-criminal surveillance.

“The Department of Homeland Security is giving concurrent notice of a newly established system of records pursuant to the Privacy Act of 1974 [EPCA] for the “Department of Homeland Security/ALL-031 Information Sharing Environment Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative System of Records” and this proposed rulemaking. In this proposed rulemaking, the Department proposes to exempt portions of the system of records from one or more provisions of the Privacy Act because of criminal, civil, and administrative enforcement requirements.”

[They are seeking public input on this for the next 19 days.]

NPRM’s are a chronic source of irritation for electronic privacy advocates seeking ways to cut funding to bureacratic tech adoptions in local and national governance; which are later used for broad public surveillance.  Domestic federal intelligence agencies, like the FBI, are trying to hang onto the vagueries which allow them to veer into places they have no right to go.  However, in all fairness, the government is only one aspect of our society where upgrades to the EPCA will face resistance.

Wireless, social networking, and cloud computing companies, like Google, have been compromising the public cache, divesting analytics, or information gained by use of their technology, for profit or for leverage in a tough economy.  Strange concessions from these companies have started to emerge, maybe to demonstrate how they can change their evil ways.  Perhaps more so they won’t get the heavy legal hit expected if the EPCA gets the legal upgrade necessary to constrict the private tap of consumer information being abused today.

One thing is clear ; as the EPCA is updated it should end the festive looting of your private digital records at the convenience of the US government and private information brokers.

RELATED NEWS:  Stephen Colbert’s, Colbertlist 

c/o Los Angeles Times

Suppose Congress created a board to protect the privacy of Americans and no one showed up. That’s the bizarre reality of the five-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, all of whose five seats have been vacant since 2008. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice) is pressing the Obama administration to fill the vacancies. In doing so, the president should choose individuals of sufficient experience and stature to act as watchdogs over the intelligence community and the Justice Department.

The board was originally established by Congress in 2004 and was raised to the status of an independent agency within the executive branch in 2007. Its mandate is to advise the administration when anti-terrorism policies threaten to trample civil liberties, and it has access to both public and classified information. It’s meant to complement, not replace, congressional oversight and investigations by the inspectors general of the Justice Department and the CIA. It also makes an annual report to Congress — or would, if it were reconstituted with new appointments.

Although it was the George W. Bush administration that inaugurated the illegal wiretapping of Americans suspected of being in contact with foreign terrorists, invasions of privacy are a constant danger in any intelligence program empowered to collect and scrutinize the personal and electronic records of U.S. citizens. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is designed to help protect against abuses in advance so that we don’t have to conduct inquests after the fact.

Appropriately, anti-terrorism measures constantly are being refined to address new challenges. In a letter to Obama, Harman and Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, cite policy changes proposed after the attempted destruction of an airliner on Christmas, including expanded watch lists and increased use of body-scanning technology at airports.

It would be naïve to think that the board always will prevail in its recommendations to Congress or the administration. Nor is it the only brake on ill-considered or legally dubious anti-terrorism initiatives. In addition to various inspectors general, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel is supposed to advise the administration and federal agencies of the legal limits on counter-intelligence operations and other tactics in the war on terrorism.

Stung by criticism of its inaction, the administration insists that it is considering candidates for the three Democratic seats on the board and expects congressional Republicans to recommend nominees for the other two seats soon. Better late than never, but the empty seats at the table more than a year into the Obama administration are an embarrassment.