Irish Anti War Movement

Irish Times: US seeks access to mobile calls

US seeks access to mobile calls


The US government argued today that it should be allowed access to people's cell-phone records to help track suspected criminals.

A Justice Department attorney urged a federal appeals court in Philadelphia to overturn lower court rulings denying it the right to seek information from communications companies about the call activity of specific numbers that authorities believe are associated with criminal activity.

But civil rights lawyers argued that providing information such as dates, times and call duration, and which cell towers the calls used, would be an invasion of privacy and a violation of constitutional protections against unjustified arrest.

If the government position is upheld, it could force companies such as AT&T, Verizon Communications and Sprint Nextel to hand over calling records.

Attorneys for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology said the government should have to obtain a warrant to track an individual via a cell phone and show probable cause that the information would provide evidence of a crime.

In 2008, the government asked for court permission to use cell phones for tracking without showing probable cause. The request was denied by a magistrate judge, whose decision was upheld by a district court. The government is appealing the lower court decisions before the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which heard oral arguments on Friday.

The government is not seeking to monitor the content of cell phone conversations, said Mark Eckenwiler, an attorney for the Justice Department, but wants information on call activity to assist law-enforcement as it tracks suspected criminals.

"Cell tower information is useful to law enforcement because of limited information it provides about the location of a cell phone when a call is made," the government said in a 2008 brief.

In February 2008, the government asked a lower court's permission to obtain from Sprint Spectrum the connection and cell-site information associated with a specific cell phone, on the grounds that it was relevant to an investigation on narcotics trafficking.

Kevin Bankston, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argued that cell tower data can allow officials to determine a cell phone user's location to within a tenth of a mile, and that could violate constitutional rights protecting a person from unreasonable seizure.

"We think the data in this case is accurate enough to implicate the Fourth Amendment," he said.

Judge Dolores Sloviter, one of a three-judge panel, told Mr Eckenwiler the government's case raised questions about the government's rights to track individuals.

"There are governments in the world that would like to know where some of their people are or have been," she said, citing Iran as a government that monitors political meetings. "Wouldn't the government find it useful if it could get that information without showing probable cause? Don't we have to be concerned about that?"

The court is expected to rule in coming months.


The US Military: A Mindset of Barbarism

The US Military: A Mindset of Barbarism

by: Dahr Jamail, t r u t h o u t | Interview (Part 1)

On December 27, in the eastern Kunar region of Afghanistan, ten Afghans, eight of whom were schoolchildren, were dragged from their beds and shot by US forces during a nighttime raid. Afghan government investigators said the eight students were aged from 11 to 17 years.


John Pilger: Why the Oscars are a con

Why the Oscars are a con

John Pilger
Published 11 February 2010

This year's Oscar nominations are a parade of propaganda and stereotypes.

Why are so many films so bad? This year's Oscar nominations are a parade of propaganda, stereotypes and downright dishonesty. The dominant theme is as old as Hollywood: America's divine right to invade other societies, steal their history and occupy our memory. When will directors and writers behave like artists and not pimps for a world-view devoted to control and destruction?

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appeal court highlighted British leaders coverup

Clive Stafford Smith, Wednesday 10 February 2010
> In a scathing judgment running to 84 pages, the court of appeal has
> slapped the government down in the case of Binyam Mohamed. As many
> will recall, Mohamed was seized by the Pakistanis in April 2002,
> turned over to the Americans for a $5,000 bounty, abused for three
> months, rendered to Morocco, tortured with razor blades to the
> genitals, rendered on to the "Dark Prison" in Kabul, tortured some
> more, and then held for five years without charge or trial in Bagram
> air force base and Guantánamo Bay. The verdict of the court –
> comprised of three of the country's most senior judges – underlines
> the shameful way in which, in this case and beyond, our political
> leaders have placed their desire to suppress embarrassing revelations
> above the welfare of citizens.

Clive Stafford Smith: 'The government is still trying to suppress evidence' 

With Mohamed's torture established as a judicial fact, the judges queried what reason there could be to cover up the now-notorious "seven paragraphs"? This summary was removed from the original opinion when the government cried national security. The material is important – it adds direct evidence that the Americans wrote down their torture tactics, and that a British agent knew Mohamed was being abused before he flew to Pakistan to join the interrogation – but represents only a few crumbs of the overall
 criminal enterprise.
> Yet two years into the litigation, the foreign secretary, David
> Miliband, still argued that a court would be "irresponsible" to reveal
> the material – strong language when aimed by the diplomatic service at
> the judicial branch.
> "No advantage is achieved by bandying deprecatory epithets," the
> judges replied, before passing out a few polite insults themselves.
> The foreign secretary's intransigence was "irrational" and lacking in
> "commonsense". With the original high court judges, that makes five
> independent members of the judiciary against one US-dependent
> politician.
> So what is truly at stake? At its most significant level, the decision
> focused on a legacy of the "war on terror" that is more bitter even
> than abusing prisoners: the conflation of national security with
> political embarrassment. The fact of torture is horrific; but the
> concerted effort of British and American officials to cover up the
> torturers' crimes is far more insidious. How can we learn from
> history, and avoid repeating mistakes, if we do not know what that
> history is?
> This is a high-profile example of a national disease. Because we fear
> for our safety and cherish our privacy, politicians argue that we will
> lose both if we do not sacrifice our right to free speech, our "right
> to know". We should, in other words, simply trust them.
> This is the path that British politicians have been treading all too
> frequently. Nobody would have known that three Labour MPs committed
> expense fraud, or that scores of others spent money on the ethical
> equivalent of a duck pond, if we were only allowed to see the redacted
> version of the MPs expenses. The claim in that case was "privacy".
> The seven paragraphs should rate little more than a footnote in the
> full story, yet that is a tale that remains untold. The court tells us
> that a "vast body" of government reports about Mohamed's abuse remain
> secret. I was in Washington last week reviewing a similarly "vast
> body" of evidence indicating British complicity in the abuse of
> another Guantánamo prisoner, *Shaker Aamer. Not a word of that has
> been revealed, again on grounds of national security.
> Since I am not as temperate as a judge, I would not characterise the
> arguments made by Miliband as "irrational": after beginning with the
> term "foolish," I fear I would descend to epithets unfit to publish
> here . Suppressing any evidence of government criminality on grounds
> of national security sets a very dangerous precedent. As the saying
> goes, those who would sacrifice their freedoms to ensure their safety
> deserve neither – and can expect to lose both.

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