Tag Archives: Spying

Community Control Over Police Surveillance Effort Launches with First Wave of Legislation in 11 Cities

Community Control Over Police Surveillance Effort Launches with First Wave of Legislation in 11 Cities

NEW YORK — Local officials in 11 cities announced today that they are launching legislative efforts to bring transparency to the acquisition and use of local police surveillance technologies for the first time. The measures include mandating explicit city council approval and a public hearing process that maximizes community input into surveillance technology decisions. This locally-led, multi-city effort was developed in partnership with 17 highly-diverse national partner organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Campaign Zero, and the Tenth Amendment Center.

In the rare cases where local police data has been available to the public — in cities like Baltimore, MarylandOakland, California; and Lansing, Michigan — the data has shown a disproportionate use of surveillance technologies in communities of color and low-income areas. The partner organizations have created a set of guiding principles to assist community groups in changing surveillance practices. The principles aim to promote transparency, democratic decision making, and community empowerment with respect to if and how surveillance technologies are funded, acquired, and used.

01.) Predictive policing software uses mathematical and analytical techniques to attempt to predict future criminal activity, offenders, and victims. Historically biased data is input into an algorithm of unknown accuracy, which produces biased results that will only continue the trend of over-policing communities of color and low-income communities.

The first wave of cities announcing legislative efforts today are:

Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Madison, Wisconsin
Miami Beach, Florida
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Muskegon, Michigan
New York, New York
Palo Alto, California
Pensacola, Florida
Richmond, Virginia
Seattle, Washington
Washington, D.C.

“The use of surveillance by local police has been spreading unchecked across the country without regard for the communities that they purport to serve,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “Today communities and their local elected officials are taking action to address the disparate impact, financial burden, and threats to civil rights and liberties posed by invasive surveillance technologies.”

02.) Biometric technologies allow you to be identified and tracked using a physical trait, run against DMV, social network, and other databases. Technological limitations and biased engineering practices can lead to false-positives, especially amongst people of color, which results in innocent people unjustifiably drawing the attention of law enforcement.

“Local police surveillance technologies, which are disproportionately focused on African Americans and other people of color, are hurting our communities and undercutting the trust necessary for law enforcement to be effective. These technologies are invading our public spaces and creating a culture of fear,” said Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau and its senior vice president for advocacy and policy. “We need to maximize the active engagement and influence our local communities have over surveillance technology decision-making. This first wave of legislative efforts being taken today across the country is a critical first step to moving local surveillance out of the shadows, ensuring transparency and accountability, and protecting the civil rights of all Americans.”

“People of color have long been the targets of government surveillance — but today’s technology makes it more concerning than ever,” said Alvaro Bedoya, founder and executive director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown University Law Center. “Communities are being confronted with the very real possibility that law enforcement is tracking them wherever they go — at work, school, places of worship and political gatherings. People need to feel safe in their neighborhoods, and this new effort is an important step in the process of taking back control.”

03.) Aerial view of Baltimore from Persistent Surveillance’s Cessna aircraft. | Photographer: Philip Montgomery for Bloomberg Businessweek

This surge of legislative action, which is expected to be replicated in an increasing number of cities across the nation, is guided by the following principles:

  1. Surveillance technologies should not be funded, acquired, or used without express city council approval.
  2. Local communities should play a significant and meaningful role in determining if and how surveillance technologies are funded, acquired, or used.
  3. The process for considering the use of surveillance technologies should be transparent and well-informed.
  4. The use of surveillance technologies should not be approved generally; approvals, if provided, should be for specific technologies and specific, limited uses.
  5. Surveillance technologies should not be funded, acquired, or used without addressing their potential impact on civil rights and civil liberties.
  6. Surveillance technologies should not be funded, acquired, or used without considering their financial impact.
  7. To verify legal compliance, surveillance technology use and deployment data should be reported publically on an annual basis.
  8. City council approval should be required for all surveillance technologies and uses; there should be no “grandfathering” for technologies currently in use.

The national partners in this effort are:

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation
Campaign Zero
Center for Democracy & Technology
Center for Popular Democracy
Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Crypto Harlem
Demand Progress
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Fight for the Future
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Million Hoodies Movement for Justice
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
National Network of Arab American Communities
Restore the Fourth
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Tenth Amendment Center

Additional resources and information can be found here: www.communityCTRL.com

Investigative Journalist and MIT PhD Candidate Sue CIA for Records on Illegal Surveillance of Senate Investigation into Torture

Investigative Journalist and MIT PhD Candidate Sue CIA for Records on Illegal Surveillance of Senate Investigation into Torture

WASHINGTON, DC — Investigative journalist Jason Leopold and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) PhD candidate Ryan Shapiro filed a lawsuit this morning against the Central Intelligence Agency. The suit is over the CIA’s failure to comply with Leopold and Shapiro’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records on the CIA’s alleged spying on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s (SSCI) review of the CIA’s notorious rendition, detention and interrogation (RDI) program.

As detailed in an exclusive report by Natasha Lennard for Vice News, through their FOIA request and lawsuit, Leopold and Shapiro seek to shed light on a critical yet little-understood ongoing controversy frequently described as a possible constitutional crisis.

Jason Leopold is an investigative journalist covering counterterrorism and human rights. He has been called a “FOIA Terrorist” by federal employees for his aggressive use of the Freedom of Information Act, which includes successfully suing the FBI to force changes to Bureau FOIA practices.

Ryan Shapiro, a FOIA specialist, is an historian of the political functioning of national security and the policing of dissent. Shapiro’s pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security.

Leopold and Shapiro are represented by Washington, DC-based FOIA specialist attorney Jeffrey Light.

Three key elements of Shapiro and Leopold’s FOIA request and lawsuit:

1. The records at issue pertain directly to a possible ongoing constitutional crisis:

As editorialized by a leading newspaper opining on the matter, “Government spying from Washington has become government spying on Washington and may have escalated into a full constitutional crisis.”

Along these lines, SSCI Chairwoman Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) herself flatly accused the CIA of obstructing and surveilling her Senate committee’s review of the CIA’s RDI program. Highlighting the “grave implications of Executive Branch personnel interfering with an official congressional investigation[,]” Senator Feinstein declared the CIA’s actions “may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution, including the Speech and Debate clause. It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities or any other government function.” Feinstein continued that the CIA’s actions, “may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.” Feinstein concluded by remarking that the outcome of this affair will determine whether the Senate “can be effective in monitoring and investigating our nation’s intelligence activities, or whether our work can be thwarted by those we oversee.”

In like fashion, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) characterized the CIA’s actions as “Richard Nixon stuff” “dangerous to the democracy” and that “heads should roll, people should go to jail if it’s true.”

2. The public war of words between the Senate and the CIA, as well as the continuing inability of the American people to know the truth about confirmed CIA torture and alleged CIA spying on its Congressional overseers, led Leopold and Shapiro to file a wide-ranging Freedom of Information Act request to the CIA seeking:

a) A copy of all written agreements and correspondence between the SSCI (including Senators on the committee, their staff, and committee staff) and the CIA (or its agents, including contractors) which set forth the terms under which SSCI staffers would be permitted to access CIA documents at the secure CIA facility in Virginia.

b) A copy of all records documenting any CIA investigation into the search of SSCI’s computers at the secure facility in Virginia, including any records generated by the CIA’s Inspector General in the course of any investigation; records referring the incident(s) to the Department of Justice for investigation; and correspondence between the SSCI (including Senators on the committee, their staff, and committee staff) and the CIA (or its agents, including contractors) which discuss the event.

c) A copy of all records documenting any CIA investigation into the removal of the Panetta Review, including any records generated by the CIA’s Inspector General in the course of any investigation; records referring the incident(s) to the Department of Justice for investigation; and correspondence between the SSCI (including Senators on the committee, their staff, and committee staff) and the CIA (or its agents, including contractors) which discuss the event.

d) For any CIA contractor responsible for reviewing records relating to the CIA’s former Detention and Interrogation Program before access was provided to SSCI staff, a copy of the contract, the request for proposal, proposal, bid solicitation, and bid.

e) A copy of any and all talking points (in draft and final form) and any and all guidance issued to the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs about the ongoing dispute between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) over the SSCI’s review of the CIA’s former Detention and Interrogation Program.

3. The CIA has failed to comply with Leopold and Shapiro’s FOIA request and is now in violation of the Freedom of Information Act. Consequently, Leopold and Shapiro have filed a lawsuit to compel CIA compliance with their FOIA request for records on this affair.

According to Shapiro:

“The U.S. intelligence community is notorious for its profound hostility to transparency. In the present case, the CIA appears to have spied upon the very Senate intelligence committee tasked with overseeing the CIA’s torture program, while at the same time smearing that Senate committee’s review with unsupported allegations of criminality. Now, the CIA is further flouting transparency by refusing to comply with our FOIA request for records on this troubling affair. The democratic process cannot meaningfully function without an informed citizenry, and such a citizenry is impossible without broad public access to information about the operations of government. It’s time for the CIA and the rest of the U.S. intelligence community to recognize transparency not as a threat, but rather as an essential component of viable democracy.”

A complete copy of the complaint filed in court this morning can be viewed HERE

To arrange an interview with Jason Leopold and Ryan Shapiro, please email or text Andy Stepanian at andy@sparrowmedia.net or 631.291.3010. You can follow Jason Leopold on twitter at @JasonLeopold and Ryan Shapiro on twitter at @_rshapiro