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Violence in Ferguson, Police Throw Smoke Bombs in Street

Police fired tear gas, smoke bombs and rubber bullets in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.

The situation became more tense after nightfall, with police ordering people to go home and then using smoke bombs and later tear gas after some people threw Molotov cocktails and other things at them.

Here's an AP photo. Here's a live-streamed video of the lead up to the police actions and the aftermath. From the video, it was the police who advanced first, on a crowd that seems peaceful, and had their hands in the air while they chanted "Hands up, don't shoot."

Not on the video, there is a photo of some protesters trying to light a molotov cocktail (unsuccessfully, according to the caption) and another of a protester throwing a burning tear gas canister back at police (In other words, the police threw first.)Here's a photo of an empty tear gas canister picked up at the scene. [More....]

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House Passes Bill to Speed Deportations, End Obama Relief to Dreamers

The House of Representatives Friday passed a new version of the Republican's border bill that will unconscionably speed up deportations of child migrants. The House also passed a separate bill, intended to appease TX Sen. Ted Cruz and the radical right arm of the party, that reverses much of President Obama's executive order granting temporary relief to Dreamers, children who arrived the United States years ago with undocumented parents. Obama's order created a two year deferral on deportation for many of these children. [More...]

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CIA Director John Brennan Admits CIA Spied on Senate Staffers

With the declassified version of the Inspector General's report outlining the CIA's unauthorized intrusion into U.S. Senate staffers' computers on the horizon, CIA director John Brennan admitted today the agency spied on Senate members. He also apologized. [More...]

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U.S. Judge Approves Search Warrant for Entire Gmail Account

U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Gabriel Gorenstein in the Southern District of New York has approved a search warrant request for the entire contents of an unnamed person's Gmail account, with no restrictions. Federal prosecutors requested the warrant in a money laundering investigation.

The decision is contrary to earlier rulings by Magistrate Judges in Kansas and Washington, DC. I have uploaded the opinion here. [More...]

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New Report on Human Rights Abuses in U.S. Terror Cases

The Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School has released a new report, Illusion of Justice, Human Rights Abuses in U.S. Terrorism cases.

The 212 page report examines 27 terror cases from start to finish.

[S]ince the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, DC, the United States government has failed to meet its international legal obligations with respect to its investigations and prosecutions of terrorism suspects, as well as its treatment of terrorism suspects in custody.

One of the big problems is of course the FBI's overuse of terror stings. Here are the major concerns, according to the study: [More...]

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9th Circuit Overturns AZ Ban on Drivers Licenses for Dreamers

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today reversed a lower court's refusal to grant a preliminary injunction against Arizona's ban on issuing driver's licenses to Dreamers who have been granted permission under President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (background here) to remain in the U.S. and avoid deportation for up to two years.

The opinion is here. It says the Dreamers are likely to prevail on an equal protection challenge to the ban, and will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction isn't granted. It ordered the Arizona Department of Transportation to provide licenses to those in that program.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 642,685 young people have been approved for the program since 2012, including 20,000 from Arizona. (statistics here.)

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Nobody could have predicted that 'religious liberty' accommodations would lead to Hobby Lobby

Due to the entirely predictable turmoil in Iraq, we are now cursed with Iraq Debacle cheerleaders "explaining" how it was all President Obama's fault. In a similar vein of chutzpah, E.J.Dionne has deccided that the Hobby Lobby decision was also President Obama's fault:

Itís unfortunate that the Obama administrationís initial, parsimonious exemption for religious groups helped ignite the firestorm that led to Hobby Lobby. It might consider this lesson as it moves, rightly, to issue an executive order to ban discrimination against LGBT people by government contractors. Iíve long believed that anti-gay behavior is both illiberal and, if I may, un-Christian.

Oh really? It was the Obama Administration's fault that its overly generous "accommodation" in violation of the Establishment Clause that led to Hobby Lobby? It was Obamas fault that his compromise was rejected out of hand by the Manichean forces intent on eliminating women's privacy rights? What a load of crap. Indeed, E.J. Dionne has been full of it from Day 1 on this. In my post, Dionne Breaks Faith With Progressive Values, I predicted that the accommodation Dionne argued for would absolutely lead to Hobby Lobby:

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Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board Releases Report

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has released a 191 page report on the electronic surveillance program operated under FISA's Section 702. (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act of 2008.) The full report is here.

In response to the requests from Congress and the President, the Board began a comprehensive study of the two NSA programs. The Board held public hearings and met with the Intelligence Community and the Department of Justice, White House, and congressional committee staff, privacy and civil liberties advocates, academics, trade associations, and technology and communications companies.

The report "examines the collection of electronic communications under Section 702, and provides analysis and recommendations regarding the program’s implementation." It finds two areas of concern: [More....]

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Mass. Court Orders Defendant to Unencrypt His Computer

The Supreme Court of Massachusetts has ordered a defendant to decrypt his computer after he told police during a post-arrest interview, he had the ability to do so.

Because Gelfgatt already admitted to police that he owned and controlled the seized computers and had the ability to decrypt them, the court found that the act of decryption would not reveal anything new to the police. Therefore, the act of compelled decryption was not “testimonial.” Normally, the Fifth Amendment privilege prevents the government from forcing a witness to disclose incriminating information in his mind (like a password not written down anywhere else)—but only if that is information the police do not already know.

The defendant is a lawyer charged with mortgage fraud. He should have known better. Miranda rights are there for a reason -- use them or lose them.

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10th Circuit Rules States Cannot Ban Same Sex Marriage

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court's ruling that Utah's ban on same sex marriage is unconstitutional.

The opinion is here.

We hold that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry, establish a family, raise children, and enjoy the full protection of a state’s marital laws. A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union.

This appears to be the first federal appeals court ruling on the constitutional issue since the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. [More...]

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Supreme Court Rules Warrant Needed for Cell Phone Searches

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled in two cases today that police must get a warrant to search a cell phone after arrest.

Roberts noted in his opinion that cellphones "are now such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy."

The cases are Riley v. California and U.S. v. Wurie. The opinion is here. Lyle Denniston at ScotusBlog has this analysis of the opinion.

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OIG Report on Postal Service's Use of Mail Covers

The Inspector General recently issued a report on the use of mail covers to spy on mail. It found procedures were not being followed in a substantial number of cases. Politico reports:

The U.S. Postal Service failed to observe key safeguards on a mail surveillance program with a history of civil liberties abuses, according to a new internal watchdog report that USPS managers tried to keep secret, citing security concerns.

...The Office of Inspector General audit of so-called “mail covers” — orders to record addresses or copy the outside of all mail delivered to an individual or an address — found that about 20 percent of the orders implemented for outside law enforcement agencies were not properly approved, and 13 percent were either unjustified or not correctly documented.

The post office issued 40,000 mail covers last year. The postal inspectors didn't want the report made public, but the inspector general's office published a redacted version anyway. You can read it here.

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11th Circuit Rules Warrrant Required for Cell Site Locator Data

Quartavious Davis was convicted of various robberies during which he possessed a gun. He was sentenced to 162 years. His primary argument on appeal was the the Government obtained his cell phone's location information from his wireless provider by court order under the Stored Communications Act rather than by search warrant. Unlike a search warrant, the SCA does not require a showing of probable cause. The Government used the location data Davis at trial to show that as to six of the seven robberies, Davis and his co-defendants placed and received cell phone calls around the time of the robberies near the locations of the stores that were robbed. The 11th Circuit ruled Davis had a valid privacy interest in his location under the Fourth Amendment, and obtaining the data via an order under the SCA (section 2703(d)) was unconstitutional. The opinion is here.

The AP reports:

In the first ruling of its kind nationally, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined people have an expectation of privacy in their movements and that the cell tower data was part of that. As such, obtaining the records without a search warrant is a violation of the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures, the judges ruled.

However, Davis gets no relief from the Court because of the violation. The Court determined the "good faith" exception to the exclusionary rule applies under United States v. Leon. [More...]

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House Guts NSA Surveillance Reforms Before Passing Bill

The House today passed the USA Freedom Act -- after stripping it of several critical reform provisions.

The bill was intended to end the NSA's bulk collection of our phone records. Instead, the bill is ambiguous at best, and at worst, can be viewed as codifying the NSA's authority for bulk record collection. A coalition of tech companies, including FB, Google and Yahoo, warn "the revised version creates an "unacceptable loophole that could enable the bulk collection of internet users' data."

The version that passed the House contains changed definitions, weakens the reforms to Section 702 of FISA, and has no provision for introducing a special advocate in the FISA Court.

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New Snowden Documents : NSA/DEA Warrantless Intercepts

Check out the latest from The Intercept (Ryan Devereaux, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras), Data Pirates of the Carribean, on an NSA and DEA program called "SomalGet", which is part of MYSTIC.

NSA and the DEA have been recording every phone call in the Bahamas without the knowledge of the Bahamian government.

[The NSA] appears to have used access legally obtained in cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to open a backdoor to the country’s cellular telephone network, enabling it to covertly record and store the “full-take audio” of every mobile call made to, from and within the Bahamas – and to replay those calls for up to a month.

The program has also been used in Mexico, the Philippines, and Kenya.

[W]hile MYSTIC scrapes mobile networks for so-called “metadata” – information that reveals the time, source, and destination of calls – SOMALGET is a cutting-edge tool that enables the NSA to vacuum up and store the actual content of every conversation in an entire country.

Here is a 2012 memo written by an official in the NSA's International Crime & Narcotics division describing the program. [More....]

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