Quotulatiousness

April 15, 2014

Militarization of the police, pervasive surveillance, incarceration rates, and other police state trappings

Filed under: Government, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:24

An email from Rupert included a link to this infographic illustrating the “progress” of the United States toward a police state:

Click image to see full infographic

Click image to see full infographic

It’s easy to poke fun at people who worry about the ever-growing state involvement in everyday life … well, it used to be fun until the NSA’s incredible list of surveillance programs became known. Now, paranoia is the rational state for anyone concerned with their privacy and freedom of speech. We had Godwin’s Law, which provided a useful rule of thumb for when internet arguments had passed the point of no return. This is a rare example of an argument that meets the condition of Godwin’s Law (in the infographic), yet still remains relevant.

April 7, 2014

The Non-Libertarian Police Department

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:37

I linked to Tom O’Donnell’s “Libertarian Police Department” article last week. This week, Conor Friedersdorf presents the Non-Libertarian Police Department. The difference is that O’Donnell’s department doesn’t exist, while Friedersdorf is describing far too many actual police departments:

I can laugh along with parodies of libertarian ideology. But shouldn’t a reductio ad absurdum start with a belief that the target of the satire actually holds? Tom O’Donnell proceeds as if libertarians object to the state enforcing property rights – that is to say, one of the very few state actions that virtually all libertarians find legitimate! If America’s sheriffs were all summarily replaced by Libertarian Party officials selected at random, I’m sure some ridiculous things would happen. Just not any of the particular things that were described. That isn’t to say that there weren’t parts of the article that made me laugh. It got me thinking too. If the non-libertarian approach to policing* was the target instead, would you need hyperbole or reductio ad absurdum? Or could you just write down what actually happens under the officials elected by non-libertarians? It is, of course, hard to make it funny when all the horrific examples are true:

I was just finishing up my shift by having sex with a prostitute when I got a call about an opportunity for overtime. A no-knock raid was going down across town.

“You’re trying to have your salary spike this year to game the pension system, right?” my buddy told me. “Well, we’re raiding a house where an informant says there’s marijuana, and it’s going to be awesome – we’ve got a $283,000 military grade armored SWAT truck and the kind of flash grenades that literally scared that one guy to death.”

“Don’t start without me,” I told him. “I just have to stop by this pawn shop. It’s run by some friends of mine from ATF. They paid this mentally disabled teenager $150 dollars to get a neck tattoo of a giant squid smoking a joint. Those guys are hilarious.”

April 1, 2014

Libertarian Police Department

Filed under: Humour, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:32

In The New Yorker, Tom O’Donnell goes on the road with the hardworking cops of the LPD:

I was shooting heroin and reading The Fountainhead in the front seat of my privately owned police cruiser when a call came in. I put a quarter in the radio to activate it. It was the chief.

“Bad news, detective. We got a situation.”

“What? Is the mayor trying to ban trans fats again?”

“Worse. Somebody just stole 474 million dollars’ worth of bitcoins.”

The heroin needle practically fell out of my arm. “What kind of monster would do something like that? Bitcoins are the ultimate currency: virtual, anonymous, stateless. They represent true economic freedom, not subject to arbitrary manipulation by any government. Do we have any leads?”

“Not yet. But mark my words: we’re going to figure out who did this and we’re going to take them down… provided someone pays us a fair market rate to do so.”

“Easy, chief,” I said, “Any rate the market offers is, by definition, fair.”

He laughed. “That’s why you’re the best I got, Lisowski. Now you get out there and find those bitcoins.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’m on it.”

H/T to Walter Olson:

March 28, 2014

McGuinty staffer alleged to have wiped key computer hard drives

Filed under: Cancon — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:43

I’m sure there’s a perfectly simple, non-suspicious reason for the outgoing chief of staff of a provincial premier to arrange a non-government employee having access to key computers at a change of administration… because otherwise this would look particularly bad:

The Kathleen Wynne minority government went into serious damage control mode after the release of an OPP warrant which alleges criminal behaviour in the office of the premier.

The explosive document, made public by a judge Thursday but not proven in court, alleges a former chief of staff for ex-premier Dalton McGuinty committed a criminal breach of trust by arranging for another staffer’s techie boyfriend to access 24 desktop computers in the premier’s office as Wynne took over the reins in 2013.

A committee investigating the Ontario Liberals’ cancellation of gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga, at a loss of up to $1.1 billion, had already ordered the government to turn over all records related to that decision.

Wynne said the allegations, if true, are “disturbing” but she was not aware of and would not have condoned such activity.

“I was not in charge of the former chief of staff, I did not direct the former chief of staff, I did not direct anyone in my office to destroy information, nor would I ever do that,” Wynne said. “And, in fact, we have changed the rules about the retention of information.”

OPP investigators probing the alleged illegal deletion of e-mails executed a search warrant last month on a Mississauga data storage facility used by the Ontario government.

February 24, 2014

Euromaidan’s pseudo-medieval technological battle with Berkut

Filed under: Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:59

Robert Beckhusen on the throwback to the Middle Ages in the fighting between the Euromaidan protestors and the paramilitary Berkut police:

But to understand why the protests succeeded in toppling Yanukovych, it’s worth taking a glance at its strategies and military-style tactics. The protesters not only built a broad and inclusive coalition, but innovated where it mattered most: on the streets.

Really, it turned medieval.

Protesters shot fireworks with makeshift launchers. In combination with throwing stones and using slingshots, they overwhelmed disoriented Berkut special forces units, who were pelted with flying objects as fireworks exploded around them.

Protesters wore military helmets and carried makeshift — or captured — shields. Wooden boards were used to protect their lower legs from shrapnel the police taped to exploding stun grenades.

Among the array of homemade weapons, some were perhaps a little too ambitious. A crude trebuchet — a type of medieval catapult which uses a counterweight to fling objects — was overrun and dismantled.

To shield themselves from the onslaught, the police special forces units known as Berkut adopted distinct tetsudo formations. This packed shield formation was used by the Roman Empire, developed to shield infantry units from arrows. The first line holds its shields forward, with each preceding line holding their shields towards the sky.

The problem with this tactic? It makes you much slower.

February 19, 2014

Euromaidan versus Berkut – it’s not a game

Filed under: Europe, Government, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 14:34

The situation in Ukraine is not getting the public attention it deserves in the West, and Zenon Evans provides a quick summary of the extent of the protests and government repression:

Violence between Ukraine’s opposition (known as Euromaidan) and the government’s SWAT-style police force (Berkut), has boiled over today. Fires are raging across protesters’ tent-towns and police stations in what is being described as “open warfare.” Estimates indicate that over 20 people are dead and over 1,000 are injured. The BBC reports that officers are using rubber bullets and stun grenades, while The Daily Beast says machine guns are their weapon of choice. Protesters are armed with an array of weapons, from bricks and molotov cocktails to firearms of their own.

Parliamentary member Lesya Orobets writes:

    The war is here. A real fierce war. It is impossible to grasp this emotionally, although the mind is working precisely and quickly quite apart from emotions. We are being exterminated because of our desire to have dignity and decide our lives independently. This simply makes no sense. My fellow Ukrainians are being killed by the creatures that not only resemble us biologically, but also carry Ukrainian passports.

Russian news website Slon.ru explains that mayhem was sparked because police blocked opposition members and their representatives from entering Ukraine’s parliamentary building, where they planned on introducing constitutional reforms to limit the authority of President Yanukovych, who has been consolidating power.

For more background, Joey DeVilla has assembled a primer on Euromaidan at his blog:

Ukraine language map

I continue to be surprised with how many people I keep running into who don’t know what’s going on in Ukraine right now. For those of you who haven’t been following the news or who’d like to know more, this article’s for you!

For the most basic introduction, check out the above video by the Washington Post, Ukraine’s crisis explained in 2 minutes. It starts with a question that you might be asking: What is Ukraine? (If you live in the Bloor West Village area of Toronto, you have no excuse for not knowing about Ukraine.)

January 9, 2014

The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, “a revolution in law-making, creating an unprecedented form of blank-cheque state power”

Filed under: Britain, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:30

Josie Appleton on the amazingly restrictive bill wending its way through the UK parliamentary process:

The bill includes Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNAs), which can be issued against anybody whose conduct — or threatened conduct — is capable — on the balance of probabilities — of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person.

Few things in the public space are incapable of at least annoying someone. Some people can be annoyed by busking, ball games, skateboarding, street preaching, protests, and all the rest of it. As the former director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald QC judged: ‘It is difficult to imagine a broader concept than causing “nuisance” or “annoyance”. The phrase is apt to catch a vast range of everyday behaviours to an extent that may have serious implications for the rule of law.’

[...]

However, the problems don’t stop with clause 1. Other clauses in the bill include Public Space Protection Orders (clause 55), which allow local authorities to ban any activity which has a ‘negative effect on the quality of life’ of the area. This ban can be applied to particular groups or individuals, and can also impose conditions with which such groups must comply. This is drafted so broadly it could target anything from sleeping rough, collecting for charity, public drinking, begging, feeding pigeons, or smoking in parks. Indeed, the lead civil servant agrees that the law could be used against groups ‘if there is a localised issue’, such as a ‘group of Goths’ or ‘twentysomethings listening to music in a park’.

At base, this bill represents a revolution in law-making, creating an unprecedented form of blank-cheque state power. The aim is explicit: rather than create specific powers, it seeks to remove limitations to local authorities’ actions. The civil servant says: ‘We don’t want to put too many constraints in the legislation.’ Well, there is no danger of that.

The bill completes the transformation of the role of the British local authority, from a limited body concerned with public provision to a summary law-maker and public-order power.

January 6, 2014

Police killed in line of duty – the good news and the not-so-good news

Filed under: Law, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:32

The good news is that in the United States, the number of police officers killed in the performance of their duties dropped to a level last seen in 1959. The bad news is that the number of people killed by the police didn’t drop:

The go-to phrase deployed by police officers, district attorneys and other law enforcement-related entities to justify the use of excessive force or firing dozens of bullets into a single suspect is “the officer(s) feared for his/her safety.” There is no doubt being a police officer can be dangerous. But is it as dangerous as this oft-deployed justification makes it appear?

    The annual report from the nonprofit National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund also found that deaths in the line of duty generally fell by 8 percent and were the fewest since 1959.

    According to the report, 111 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty nationwide this past year, compared to 121 in 2012.

    Forty-six officers were killed in traffic related accidents, and 33 were killed by firearms. The number of firearms deaths fell 33 percent in 2013 and was the lowest since 1887.

This statistical evidence suggests being a cop is safer than its been since the days of Sheriff Andy Griffith. Back in 2007, the FBI put the number of justifiable homicides committed by officers in the line of duty at 391. That count only includes homicides that occurred during the commission of a felony. This total doesn’t include justifiable homicides committed by police officers against people not committing felonies and also doesn’t include homicides found to be not justifiable. But still, this severe undercount far outpaces the number of cops killed by civilians.

We should expect the number to always skew in favor of the police. After all, they are fighting crime and will run into dangerous criminals who may respond violently. But to continually claim that officers “fear for their safety” is to ignore the statistical evidence that says being a cop is the safest it’s been in years — and in more than a century when it comes to firearms-related deaths.

December 17, 2013

Legal precedents and technological change

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:04

At Ace of Spades HQ, Ace explains why a court decision from the 1970s set a very bad precedent for today’s legal and technological world:

Fifty years ago the police had a very limited ability to utilize your fingerprints record to harm you. If you became a suspect in a case — and only in that case — they could painstakingly compare your fingerprints to those found at a crime scene using slow, precious human labor resources.

There were serious practical limits on what could be done with citizen data held in government files. Yes, the government could use that data to put people in jail, but analysis and comparison was a labor intensive process that at least served as a naturally-existing limiting principle on government intrusion: Sure, the government could search your personally-identifying data to connect you with a crime, but, as a practical matter, it was so time-consuming to do so that they generally would not do so, not unless they had a strong suspicion you were actually a culprit.

They wouldn’t just compare every fingerprint on file with every fingerprint found at unsolved crime scenes, after all.

Well, today, they can — and do — actually do that. So there is no longer any practical limitation on the government’s ability to use your DNA to connect you with unknown DNA found at a crime. They can run everyone’s DNA through the database with virtually no effort.

I exaggerate; there is some lab work needed to process the DNA and reduce it to a 13 allele “genetic fingerprint.” Nevertheless, this can all be done fairly inexpensively, and running it through the database once reduced to a short code is very nearly cost-free.

But within the next ten years all of this will become entirely cost-free.

This is why I disagreed with the Supreme Court’s reliance on an old precedent in claiming that the police can take a DNA sample from every single person arrested. Merely arrested, not convicted. They relied on a precedent established at the dawn of investigatory police science, that every arrestee’s fingerprints may be collected and catalogued.

But way ‘back then, there were natural limitations on the State’s power to make use of such data which simply no longer exist. What would have been considered a silly hypothetical sci-fi objection back then — “But what stops the state from merely searching these fingerprints against every fingerprint ever lifted at a crime scene?” — is actual reality now.

The same arguments apply to all police/FBI/NSA mass data collection: cell-phone usage, internet activity, license plate scanning, facial recognition software, and so on. It resets the baseline assumptions of civil society, where the authorities only look for suspects in actual criminal cases, rather than tracking everyone all the time and deducing “criminal” actions without needing to detect the crime. If your first reaction is to think “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to fear”, remember that you cannot possibly know all the laws of your country and that statistically speaking, you probably violate one or more laws every day without realizing it (one author suggests it’s actually three felonies per day).

Update: Ayn Rand explained this phenomenon fictionally in Atlas Shrugged.

“Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against — then you’ll know that this is not the age of beautiful gestures. We’re after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you’d better get wise to it. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one ‘makes’ them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted — and you create a nation of law-breakers and then you cash in on the guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”

December 9, 2013

The “epidemic of slavery” in Britain is an urban legend

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:53

In sp!ked, Frank Furedi talks about the much-talked-about but almost certainly mythical “epidemic of slavery” in Britain:

A London detective inspector, Kevin Hyland, informed the world that ‘we have never seen anything of this magnitude before’. The UK home secretary, Theresa May, echoed his sentiments and said she would make tackling modern-day slavery her top priority. She said there was ‘one positive’ to the case of the south London slave house: the public had finally become aware of the issue of slavery, which, according to May, continues to have a ‘shocking presence in modern Britain’. By this time, claims that thousands of people in Britain were being held in conditions of ‘slavery’ were circulating in the media.

Detective inspector Hyland may not have seen ‘anything of this magnitude’ before — but the fact is that what he saw, or imagined he saw, was a fantasy of slavery rather than the grim reality of forced servitude. Indeed, the story of the south London slaves rapidly unravelled. Early reports hinted at a heroic rescue mission involving detailed planning and up to 40 police operatives. But within a few days it became evident that the three ‘slaves’ were not slaves as we have traditionally understood that term. Certainly they were not physically held against their will. Contrary to early media reports, which suggested the three women had been imprisoned in a house for 30 years, later accounts revealed that they went outdoors to run errands and had access to telephones and a television.

As the initial story of forced imprisonment became difficult to sustain, the narrative of scaremongering shifted — now focusing on the psychological and emotional horrors the women allegedly suffered. Suddenly, the image of the iron collar and chains used by slave-owners gave way to talk of ‘invisible handcuffs’. From this point on, the promoters of this urban legend about modern-day slavery argued that what is really significant about this hitherto unrecognised crime is not what can be seen by the naked eye but rather the often ‘invisible’ problem of mental enslavement. These are slaves who are not physically chained into a life of servitude, but rather are wrapped up in ‘emotional chains’ by their psychologically manipulative captors. ‘Brainwashed’ became the term most commonly used by campaigners spreading myths about an epidemic of ‘slavery’.

November 29, 2013

“This bill isn’t a slippery slope. It’s a steep hill greased up with lard”

Filed under: Cancon, Law — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:38

Brian Lilley is against a new bill that would provide the police with the power to demand that drivers submit to breath testing even when there’s no evidence that they’ve been drinking:

It’s the latest attempt to crack down hard on the ever-shrinking problem of drunk driving. The news release touting Bill C-556 states that, if passed, it would, “amend the Criminal Code to allow police officers to perform systematic random breathalyzer testing regardless of whether or not the driver shows signs of impairment.”

That means police don’t need a reason to give you a test.

They don’t need to see dilated pupils, smell booze on your breath or even have you admit you had a beer while watching the game.

The bill would give police a big increase in power and that’s not a step I want to take.

No one supports drunk driving, no one that I know anyway. And attempts to deal with the issue have largely been successful.

Statistics Canada is clear — drunk driving has been on the decrease for years now.

“The impaired driving rate generally declined from the mid-1980s to 2006, when it reached its lowest point in over 25 years, at 234 incidents per 100,000 population,” reads a report from the agency.

Back in the mid-80s there were roughly 600 incidents of impaired driving per 100,000 of population; in 2011 the Canadian average across all provinces and territories was 262 incidents per 100,000.

[...]

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees all Canadians are protected from unreasonable search and seizure.

This bill would shred that protection.

This bill isn’t a slippery slope. It’s a steep hill greased up with lard and those in favour of ever expanded police powers are just waiting for Parliament to step on it.

Canadians need to say no to drunk driving and they need to say no to this bill.

November 27, 2013

Some awkward questions about the Brixton “slaves”

Filed under: Britain, Law, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:29

Brendan O’Neill goes through the “half-truths and wild claims” of the recent modern slavery story in Britain:

It was presented to us as another Fritzl-like horror, involving three ‘enslaved women’, at least one of whom had ‘spent her whole life in captivity’ and had ‘never seen the outside world’. Or it was Britain’s own version of the recent Cleveland, Ohio case, in which Ariel Castro kidnapped three women from the streets and shackled them to immoveable objects in his house where he abused them for 10 years. In fact, it was worse than Cleveland, suggested the Mirror, because where those American women only suffered for a decade, these British-based women went through a ‘30-year nightmare of captivity, servitude and unimaginable brutality’. It was, in a nutshell, the worst-ever case of hidden human enslavement, the papers told us. ‘No known victims have spent so long in captivity being brainwashed, beaten, manipulated and terrorised’, one said.

We now know that these claims about the so-called ‘Brixton slaves’ are, to use the only term that will suffice, bullshit. Everything that has subsequently come to light, everything that has unfolded in the six days since these ‘slaves’ were ‘rescued’ from some kind of one-time Maoist commune, has called into question the initial claims made by the police, the highly dramatised narrative imposed on these events by the media, and the hyperbolic descriptions of the case by politicians desperate to appear as modern-day William Wilberforces combatting the evils of ‘slavery’. Indeed, the key question that must now be asked is not ‘How did three women end up in a grim commune?’ (let’s leave that to the police), but rather: ‘Why did the entire British media and the political class, along with campaigners and the Twitterati, so willingly and gullibly buy a horror story that was not true?’

[...]

So almost everything we were told about the Brixton case has turned out either to be untrue or to have been wildly exaggerated or dramatised. These were not slaves. They were not held captive. They were not denied contact with the outside world. Rather, what we seem to be dealing with is, quite simply, a very, very eccentric household, in which various people came together, did and believed very strange things, developed an obsession with Mao and conspiracy theories about the British ‘fascist state’, and then ended up regretting it all — well, three of women seem to have regretted it. And so they left. Voluntarily. Without a struggle. It sounds like it was all very unpleasant; it seems clear emotional manipulation was involved and possibly physical force too (but let’s allow the courts to decide that). But slavery? Fritzl-style abuse? Hell, horror, unimaginable brutality? There is nothing remotely resembling evidence to show that anything like that occurred.

So why did the media, politicians, feminists and campaigners lap up this half-cooked, shrill, mostly baseless fantasy about slaves stuck in suburban jails in London? Because it spoke to their already existing prejudices; because it seemed to confirm the darker thoughts that lurk in their heads, about wicked men, vulnerable women, and the unspeakable things that happen in ‘ordinary houses on ordinary streets’; because it allowed them to feel, temporarily, like history-making moral crusaders against evil, and to hell with anything so pesky as a fact. Aneeta Prem, head of the Freedom Charity that assisted the women and drove much of the dramatic talk about ‘domestic servitude’ and ‘rescue’, yesterday said there was too much media frenzy around the case and ‘the more information there is that comes into the public domain, the more it will hamper [the women’s] recovery’. So there’s a problem with having too much information about this case? Why? Might it be because the information so dramatically contradicts the fantasy put about by Prem and others about a group of slaves having been held captive in London for three decades?

November 26, 2013

Never-let-a-crisis-go-to-waste department – the modern slavery bill

Filed under: Britain, Law, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:11

Tim Worstall explains why the rush to legislate based on the public outrage over the most recent case of slavery is a bad idea that will have worse results:

I know that I shouldn’t giggle over such things but the revelation that the three “slaves” recently found were in fact the remnants of a Maoist commune well known to social services (indeed, housed by the local council) does provide a certain amusement as we see various leftish types suddenly running away from the story. However, now onto something a great deal more important. Theresa May and various campaigners are going to use this to try and pass an extremely bad law about modern slavery. And it’s worth our all complaining very loudly about this now, as the bill is being drawn up, not later when it is too late.

The problem is that there are two distinct meanings being conflated together for the convenience of the legislators, police, and media: I) sex slavery (which most people recognize as a terrible crime that should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law) and II) illegal immigration (which is not the same thing at all). By lumping the much larger number of type II cases in with the tiny number of type I, you get a big headline-friendly number to shock and energize the population who think you’re really talking only about type I cases.

As Operation Pentameter found out, after every police force in the country tried to search out and find sex slaves they found not one single case in the entire country that they were able to prosecute for the crime.

That is, the police went looking for slavery, type I definition of trafficking, while this foundation is using the type II definition of illegal immigration (or, to get to that 50% number, simply of immigration, legal or not).

Oh, and Eaves is involved. They were the people behind the Poppy Project. Which, laughably, claimed that evidence of foreign born women working in brothels in London was evidence of trafficking. Guess all those foreigners working in The City are slaves then, eh?

Just to make this entirely clear here. These campaigners (and that includes May here) are going to use our revulsion of the type I trafficking to pass extraordinarly severe laws against the type II stuff. Up to and including life imprisonment and confiscation of all financial assets. Yet it is only type I that is in fact slavery. Type II is more normally defined as the employment of an illegal immigrant.

Anyone really want life imprisonment for employment of an illegal immigrant? Someone who, entirely of their own volition, tried to make their lives better by breaking the law to come to this country is now going to be defined as a slave?

November 21, 2013

A panopticon society, but only in one direction

Filed under: Government, Liberty, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:37

For some reason, despite the recent revelations that Americans have almost literally no privacy thanks to government surveillance, some government employees think that they have a right to privacy that they actively push to deny to others:

From the ACLU of Massachusetts:

    Boston Police Department bosses want to install GPS monitoring devices in every patrol car, to enable dispatch to more efficiently process 911 calls. But police officers and their union are outraged, saying that the ubiquitous tracking is too invasive of their personal privacy. Tracking the location of officers as they go about their days would reveal incredibly detailed information about their lives, the officers say.

It must be just awful to go about your daily life looking over your shoulder, conscious that your every movement and activity is being recorded and could be used against you. Oh, wait. That’s what the entire American public is already dealing with, in this age of mass electronic surveillance. But the way the police union is hissing’n’flapping about it, it’s almost as if there was something wrong with that. Don’t they know that you have nothing to fear, if you have nothing to hide?

The ACLU’s tack is that if the police don’t like the feeling of being followed, they shouldn’t be pushing for technologies like mass tracking of license plates or cellphone locations. That’s fair enough, but there’s a larger point here also.

November 12, 2013

Contacting the Boston Police public affairs office is now considered “intimidation”

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:34

At Popehat, Ken White discusses the fascinating case of the public affairs office of the Boston Police department as a “victim” of “intimidation” from callers:

The story begins typically for Photography Is Not A Crime with a story about a Boston Police Department sergeant thuggishly assaulting a photographer recording a traffic stop. A PINAC fan and journalism student named Taylor Hardy called the Boston PD’s Bureau of Public Information on its public line to ask about the story. Hardy spoke with Angelene Richardson, a spokesperson for the Boston Police Department who provides information to the media and public. When Hardy published a recording of that call, the Boston Police Department arranged for him to be charged with wiretapping. Hardy claims that he informed Richardson that he was recording the call (though he did not successfully record that part of the conversation), apparently Richardson claims that he did not.

Even assuming that Hardy didn’t disclose that he was recording (and it would be foolish to take the BPD’s word on that), it’s very dubious policy for the government to charge a citizen with a crime for recording a call with a police department’s public information officer on the phone line the department identifies as its public information line. Any such communication can’t possibly be regarded as private. There may be constitutional problems with a wiretapping statute that allows prosecution of a citizen under those circumstances. But the BPP wasn’t done doubling down yet.

When Carlos Miller wrote about the wiretapping charges against Hardy, he encouraged readers to contact Richardson at her BDP telephone number and email address, which the BPD published online:

    Maybe we can call or email Richardson to persuade her to drop the charges against Hardy considering she should assume all her conversations with reporters are on the record unless otherwise stated.

In other words, Miller encouraged his readers to petition the government for a redress of grievances, as protected by the First Amendment.

The BPD has charged Miller with witness intimidation. The BPD also threatened any of Miller’s readers who contact the BPD:

    Detective Nick Moore also assured me he would do the same to any PINAC readers if they continue to contact departmental spokeswoman Angelene Richardson as they have been doing since yesterday.

    “I can go and get warrants for every person who called her,” he said during a telephone conversation earlier this evening. “It’s an annoyance. It’s an act of intimidation.”

Indeed — an act of intimidation is involved. But it’s an act of intimidation by the BPD, which is sending a clear message about how it will handle citizen dissent.

What a accomplishment: the Boston Police Department has discovered a way to make it a crime for citizens to contact the person it designates to talk to citizens.

Older Posts »
« « Useful answer sheet for new technology effects| Corruption watch: US government edition » »

Powered by WordPress

%d bloggers like this: