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Government Secrecy Spurs $4 Million Lawsuit Over Simple 'No Fly' List Error 239

An anonymous reader writes "After a seven-year lawsuit costing nearly $4 million, a judge has concluded that Rahinah Ibrahim's student visa was revoked because an FBI agent checked the wrong box on a form. That simple human error resulted in the detention of Rahinah Ibrahim, the revocation of her student visa years later and interruption of her PhD studies. The Bush and later Obama administrations obstructed the lawsuit repeatedly, invoking classified evidence, sensitive national security information and the state secrets privilege to prevent disclosure of how suspects are placed on the 'no-fly' list. The dispute eventually involved statements of support from James Clapper, Eric Holder and several other DOJ and TSA officials in favor of the government's case. The defendant was not allowed to enter the United States even to attend her own lawsuit trial and in a separate incident, her daughter, a U.S. citizen, was denied entry to witness the trial as well. The case exemplifies how government secrecy can unintentionally transform otherwise easily corrected errors into a multi-year legal and bureaucratic nightmare and waste millions of taxpayer dollars in doing so."

Musician Jailed Over Prank YouTube Video 538

An anonymous reader writes "Evan Emory, a 21-year-old aspiring musician, edited together video of him singing a G-rated song to a bunch of giggling school kids with video of him singing a song with sexually explicit lyrics, and posted it on YouTube. For this stupid joke, done many times by professional comedians (all NSFW, obviously), and admittedly done without getting permission from the children shown 'hearing' him sing naughty words, he was arrested and could face 20 years in prison as a sex offender. On the pretext of looking for 'souvenirs' of child sexual abuse, his house has been searched by police, and the Muskegon County (Michigan) Prosecutor has insinuated (with no further evidence) that Emory actually wants to have sex with children and claims he 'victimized every single child in that classroom.' Emory insists he had no such intention."

N.C. Official Sics License Police On Computer Scientist For Too Good a Complaint 705

snsh writes "When a computer scientist in North Carolina petitioned the state for a new traffic signal in his neighborhood, a transportation official replied with a complaint about what 'appears to be engineering-level work' done by someone who is not licensed as a professional engineer." Kevin Lacy, chief traffic engineer for the state DOT, and the one who filed a complaint with the N.C. Board of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors, protested that in trying to have Computer Scientist David Cox investigated for his detailed complaint about a traffic intersection while not licensed as a professional engineer, "I'm not trying to hush him up."

NAB, RIAA May Seek Mandate For FM Radios In Mobile Devices 489

Trintech writes with this quote from an article at Ars Technica: "Music labels and radio broadcasters can't agree on much, including whether radio should be forced to turn over hundreds of millions of dollars a year to pay for the music it plays. But the two sides can agree on this: Congress should mandate that FM radio receivers be built into cell phones, PDAs, and other portable electronics. The Consumer Electronics Association, whose members build the devices that would be affected by such a directive, is incandescent with rage. 'The backroom scheme of the [National Association of Broadcasters] and RIAA to have Congress mandate broadcast radios in portable devices, including mobile phones, is the height of absurdity,' thundered CEA president Gary Shapiro. Such a move is 'not in our national interest.' 'Rather than adapt to the digital marketplace, NAB and RIAA act like buggy-whip industries that refuse to innovate and seek to impose penalties on those that do.' But the music and radio industries say it's a consumer-focused proposition, one that would provide 'more music choices.'"

In MN, Massive Police Raids On Suspected Protestors 961

X0563511 alerts us to events in Minneapolis and St. Paul in advance of the Republican convention (which has been put on hold because of Hurricane Gustav). Local police backed by the FBI raided a number of homes and public buildings and confiscated computers and other material. From Salon.com: "Last night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff's department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than 'fire code violations,' and early this morning, the Sheriff's department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying. Jane Hamsher and I were at two of those homes this morning — one which had just been raided and one which was in the process of being raided." Here is local reporting from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: "Aided by informants planted in protest groups, authorities raided at least six buildings across St. Paul and Minneapolis to stop an 'anarchist' plan to disrupt this week's Republican National Convention. From Friday night through Saturday afternoon, officers surrounded houses, broke down doors, handcuffed scores of people and confiscated suspected tools of civil disobedience ... A St. Paul City Council member described it as excessive, while activists, many of whom were detained and then released without charges, called it intimidation designed to quash free speech."

FBI Hid Patriot Act Abuses 243

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "Wired is reporting that the FBI hid Patriot Act abuses with retroactive and flawed subpoenas, and used them to illegally acquire phone and credit card records. There were at least 11 retroactive, 'blanket' subpoenas that were signed by top counter-terrorism officials, some of which sought information the FBI is not allowed to have. The FBI's Communication Analysis Unit also had secret contracts with AT&T, Verizon and MCI, and abused National Security Letters by issuing subpoenas based on fake emergencies."

FBI Admits More Privacy Violations 179

kwietman writes "The FBI admitted that in 2006, for the fourth straight year, they improperly accessed phone and internet records of U.S. citizens. Director Robert Mueller testified that the abuses occurred prior to sweeping reforms enacted in 2007, and actually blamed the breaches in part on the telecommunications companies, who submitted more information than was requested. In another unsurprising development, the FBI also underreported the number of security letters - used to authorize wiretaps and to subpoena internet and telecom records - by over 4,600. The use of these letters to identify potential terrorists has, according to the government audit, increased dramatically since the implementation of the Patriot Act. Over 1,000 of these security letters were found to be improper in 2005, and similar numbers were expected for 2006 and 2007."

More Details Emerge On Domestic Spying Programs 282

The feed brings us this NYTimes story giving new details on the telecom carriers' cooperation with secret NSA (and other) domestic spying programs. One revelation is that the Drug Enforcement Agency has been running a program since the 1990s to collect the phone records of calls from US citizens to Latin America in order to catch narcotics traffickers. Another revelation is what exactly the NSA asked for in 2001 that Qwest balked at supplying. According to the article, it was access to the company's most localized communications switches, which primarily carry domestic calls.
United States

Copy That Floppy, Lose Your Computer 766

Over the weekend we posted a story about a new copyright bill that creates a new govt. agency in charge of copyright enforcement. Kevin Way writes "In particular, the bill grants this new agency the right to seize any computer or network hardware used to "facilitate" a copyright crime and auction it off. You would not need to be found guilty at trial to face this penalty. You may want to read a justification of it, and criticism presented by Declan McCullagh and Public Knowledge." Lots of good followup there on a really crazy development.
The Courts

FBI Coerced Confession Deemed "Classified" 456

Steve Bergstein is one of several who have blogged about a recent court ruling that reads like most any bestselling crime novel. Apparently, when the court originally posted their decision (complete with backstory) it detailed how a coerced confession was obtained by the FBI from Abdallah Higazy in relation to the 9/11 attacks. The details, however, were later removed and deemed "classified". "As I read the opinion I realized it was a 44 page epic, too long for me to print out. I blogged about the opinion while I read it online and then posted the blog as I ate lunch. Then something strange happened: a few minutes after I posted the blog, the opinion vanished from the Court of Appeals website! [...] The next day, the Court of Appeals reissued the Higazy opinion. With a redaction. The court simply omitted from the revised decision facts about how the FBI agent extracted the false confession from Higazy. For some reason, this information is classified."

FCC Declines To Probe Disclosure of Phone Records 97

An anonymous reader writes "News.com reports that the FCC won't be investigating the phone record disclosures by communications companies under US government pressure. Despite a congressional request for that probe, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin quashed the inquiry based on comments from National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell. 'At issue are reports last year that some big telephone companies allowed the U.S. government access to millions of telephone records for an antiterrorism program. The reports have prompted scrutiny by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Democratic Rep. Edward Markey, the chairman of a key Energy and Commerce subcommittee, asked Martin to investigate. Markey, of Massachusetts, said McConnell's stance was "unsurprising given that this administration has continually thwarted efforts by Congress to shed more light on the surveillance program."'"

Latest Revelations on the FBI's Data Mining of America 446

An anonymous reader writes "You probably already knew that the FBI was data mining Americans in the "search" for potential terrorists, but did you know that they're also supposed to be looking for people in the U.S. engaged in criminal activity that is not really supposed to be the province of the federal government? Now the feds are alleged to be data mining for insurance fraudsters, identity thieves, and questionable online pharmacists. That's what they're telling us now. What else could they be looking for that they are not telling us about?"

Leveraging always beats prototyping.