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DOJ to Recognize Same-Sex Marriages in Utah

Attorney General Eric Holder announced today the Department of Justice will recognize same-sex marriages in Utah while the issue makes its way through the appeals courts.

The 1,300 or so couples that married before a Utah court invalidated them will receive federal benefits.

"I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages," Holder said.

Holder's videotaped statement is here.

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NY Times Editorial Asks Obama for Clemency for Snowden

An editorial in the New York Times requests clemency for NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In retrospect, Mr. Snowden was clearly justified in believing that the only way to blow the whistle on this kind of intelligence-gathering was to expose it to the public and let the resulting furor do the work his superiors would not.

...When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government.

The editorial concludes with:

...President Obama should tell his aides to begin finding a way to end Mr. Snowden’s vilification and give him an incentive to return home.

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Calif Court Okays Undocmented Resident as Attorney

Great news for Sergio Garcia, an undocumented resident who went to law school in the U.S. and wants to be a lawyer. A California court has ruled he can be admitted to the bar as an attorney.

“We conclude that the fact that an undocumented immigrant’s presence in this country violates federal statutes is not itself a sufficient or persuasive basis for denying undocumented immigrants, as a class, admission to the State Bar,” the chief justice wrote.

Garcia waited four years for the ruling. More on his case, and that of Jose Godinez-Samperio at the ABA Journal here.

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TAO and ANT: The NSA's "Office of Tailored Access Operations"

Der Spiegel has several feature articles this week on the NSA's backdoor program TAO, which stands for "Tailored Access Operations."

This is the NSA's top operative unit -- something like a squad of plumbers that can be called in when normal access to a target is blocked.

According to internal NSA documents viewed by SPIEGEL, these on-call digital plumbers are involved in many sensitive operations conducted by American intelligence agencies. TAO's area of operations ranges from counterterrorism to cyber attacks to traditional espionage.

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Federal Judge Finds NSA Surveillance Legal

Yin and Yang. Last week, federal Judge Richard J. Leon in Washington ruled the NSA's collection of mass telephone metadata was “almost Orwellian” and probably unconstitutional."

Today, Judge William H. Pauley III in New York rules the opposite way, finding the NSA program legal under Section 215 of the Patriot Act and the Fourth Amendment.

Today's opinion is here.

The ACLU says on to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Pre-Christmas Eve Open Thread

Merry Christmas from the NSA ACLU

They're making a list
They're checking it twice
They're watching almost every electronic device
The NSA is coming to town

This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Govt. Releases New Documents to Justify NSA Surveillance

The Obama Administration has released new documents to justify its increased NSA warrantless surveillance.

The DNI announcement is here. The released documents are available here.

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Verizon to Reveal Info About Demands for Phone Records

Verizon says it will publish greater details on the records requests made by law enforcement, beginning in early 2014. Here is Verizon's statement.

To the extent permitted by applicable U.S. and foreign laws and regulations, Verizon’s transparency report will identify the total number of law enforcement agency requests received from government authorities in criminal cases.

In addition, the report will break out this data under categories such as subpoenas, court orders and warrants. Verizon will also provide other details about the legal demands it receives, as well as information about requests for information in emergencies.

Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo already publish transparency reports.

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Federal Court Grants Injunction Against NSA Bulk Telephony Metadata Program


A federal judge in the District of Columbia has granted a request for a preliminary injunction against the NSA preventing them from bulk collecting and querying of telephone record metadata, finding it likely violates the Fourth Amendment.

The opinion is here.

In a 68-page ruling, Judge Richard J. Leon of the District of Columbia called the program’s technology “almost Orwellian” and suggested that James Madison, the author of the Constitution, would be “aghast” to learn that the government was encroaching on liberty in such a way.

“I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary’ invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval,” Judge Leon wrote. “Surely, such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.”

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Senate Holds Hearing on Government Surveillance

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing this afternoon, "Continued Oversight of U.S. Government Surveillance Authorities." You can watch online here or at CSpan 3 here.

The Government's prepared statement is here. It begins:

Thank you for inviting us to continue our discussions with this Committee on our efforts to enhance public confidence in the important intelligence collection programs that have been the subject of unauthorized disclosures since earlier this year: the collection of bulk telephony metadata under the business records provision found in Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, and the targeting of non-U.S. persons overseas under Section 702 of FISA.

The statement details the Government's recent efforts to increase transparency and then lists a few changes to the FISA statute it willing to endorse, and several that it opposes. [More...]

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Tech Companies Write Obama and Congress

The big 8 Tech Companies have sent a letter to President Obama and Congress urging them to scale back surveillance programs.

The 8 companies are: AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo.

You can read their letter on the website they have set up, Reform Government Surveillance.

"We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer's revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide... "The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual - rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. "This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It's time for a change."

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'Christian values' Hobby Lobby purchases its products from #1 'family planning' nation China

Hobby Lobby

David Green, the owner of Hobby Lobby , has said:

We're Christians, and we run our business on Christian principles. I've always said that the first two goals of our business are (1) to run our business in harmony with God's laws, and (2) to focus on people more than money. And that's what we've tried to do. [...] We believe that it is by God's grace that Hobby Lobby has endured, and he has blessed us and our employees. [...] But now, our government threatens to change all of that. A new government health care mandate says that our family business MUST provide what I believe are abortion-causing drugs as part of our health insurance. Being Christians, we don't pay for drugs that might cause abortions, which means that we don't cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pill or the week-after pill. We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs. It goes against the Biblical principles on which we have run this company since day one.

Apparently, Green and his family run Hobby Lobby on "Christian principles" only when it is convenient and good for the bottom line. They send their "Christian" money to China and its policy of one child per family and forced abortions:

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DOJ to Use Warrantless Surveillance in Criminal Case

The New York Times has an article about DOJ notifying a criminal defendant in Colorado that it intends to use warrantless surveillance obtained under FISA in its case against him.From the Notice:

...the government intends to offer into evidence or otherwise use or disclose in proceedings in the above-captioned matter information obtained or derived from acquisition of foreign intelligence information conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, as amended, 50 U.S.C. 1881a.

The case is an interesting one. I wrote about it here. [More...]

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FISA Judge Rules NSA Mass Telephony Data Collection is Constitutional

The FISA Court today released the August 29, 2013 opinion by FISA Court Judge Claire Eagen finding the NSA's mass telephony data program is constitutional and statutorily permissible.

The opinion is here.

[B]ecause there is no cognizable Fourth Amendment interest in a telephone company's metadata that it holds in the course of its business, the Court finds that there is no Constitutional impediment to the requested production.

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The DEA, AT&T and the Hemisphere Project

The New York Times reports on the Hemisphere Project, a program in which the DEA HIDTAs have been paying AT&T for phone records for 26 years.

The government pays AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the country. Those employees sit alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and supply them with the phone data from as far back as 1987.

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