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Google

Google Reveals It Received Secret FBI Subpoena (theintercept.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Intercept: Google revealed Wednesday it had been released from an FBI gag order that came with a secret demand for its customers' personal information. The FBI secret subpoena, known as a national security letter, does not require a court approval. Investigators simply need to clear a low internal bar demonstrating that the information is "relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities." The national security letter issued to Google was mentioned without fanfare in Google's latest bi-annual transparency report, which includes information on government requests for data the company received from around the world in the first half of 2016. Google received the secret subpoena in first half of 2015, according to the report. An accompanying blog post titled "Building on Surveillance Reform," also identified new countries that made requests -- Algeria, Belarus, and Saudi Arabia among them -- and reveals that Google saw an increase in requests made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. But Google in its short blog post did not publish the contents of the actual letter the way other companies, including Yahoo, have done in recent months. Asked about plans to release the national security letter, a Google spokesperson told The Intercept it will release it, though it wouldn't say when or in what form it will do so. Google hasn't previously published any national security letters, though it's possible gag orders for prior demands are still in place. It's also unclear why Google wouldn't immediately publish the document -- unless the gag is only partially lifted, or the company is involved in ongoing litigation to challenge the order, neither of which were cited as reasons for holding it back
Government

Homeland Security Border Agents Can Seize Your Phone (cnn.com) 319

Slashdot reader v3rgEz writes: A Wall Street Journal reporter has shared her experienced of having her phones forcefully taken at the border -- and how the Department of Homeland Security insists that your right to privacy does not exist when re-entering the United States. Indeed, she's not alone: Documents previously released under FOIA show that the DHS has a long-standing policy of warrantless (and even motiveless) seizures at the border, essentially removing any traveler's right to privacy.
"The female officer returned 30 minutes later and said I was free to go," according to the Journal's reporter, adding. "I have no idea why they wanted my phones..."
The Courts

President Obama Should Pardon Edward Snowden Before Leaving Office (theverge.com) 383

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Verge: Ever since Edward Snowden set in motion the most powerful public act of whistleblowing in U.S. history, he has been living in exile in Russia from the United States. An article in this week's New York Magazine looks at how Snowden may have a narrow window of opportunity where President Obama could pardon him before he leaves office. Presumably, once he leaves office, the chances of Snowden being pardoned by Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump are miniscule. Obama has said nothing in the past few years to suggest he's interested in pardoning Snowden. Not only would it contradict his national security policy, but it will severely alienate the intelligence community for many years to come. With that said, anyone who values a free and secure internet believes pardoning Snowden would be the right thing to do. The Verge reports: "[Snowden] faces charges under the Espionage Act, which makes no distinction between delivering classified files to journalists and delivering the same files to a foreign power. For the first 80 years of its life, it was used almost entirely to prosecute spies. The president has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all president before him combined. His Justice Department has vastly expanded the scope of the law, turning it from a weapon against the nation's enemies to one that's pointed against its own citizens. The result will be less scrutiny of the nation's most powerful agencies, and fewer forces to keep them in check. With Snowden's push for clemency, the president has a chance to complicate that legacy and begin to undo it. It's the last chance we'll have."
Databases

DEA Wants Access To Medical Records Without Warrant (thedailybeast.com) 176

mi writes from a report via The Daily Beast: Unlike in cases of commercially-held data, where the Third Party doctrine allows police warrantless access, prescription drug monitoring databases are maintained by state-governments. The difference is lost to the Obama Administration, which argues that "since the records have already been submitted to a third party (a state's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program) that patients no longer enjoy an expectation of privacy." The DEA has claimed for years that under federal law it has the authority to access the states' prescription drug databases using only an "administrative subpoena." These are unilaterally issued orders that do not require a showing of probable cause before a court, like what's required to obtain a warrant. Some states, like Oregon, fight it; some, like Wisconsin, do not. "The federal government is eager to see all these databases linked," reports The Daily Beast. "The Department of Justice has developed a software platform to facilitate sharing among all state PDMPs. So far 32 states already share their PDMP data through a National Association of Boards of Pharmacy program. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which passed Congress in March, calls for expanding sharing of PDMP data."
Government

FBI Kept Demanding Email Records Despite DOJ Saying It Needed a Warrant (theintercept.com) 102

An anonymous reader writes: The secret government requests for customer information Yahoo made public Wednesday reveal that the FBI is still demanding email records from companies without a warrant, despite being told by Justice Department lawyers in 2008 that it doesn't have the lawful authority to do so.

That comes as a particular surprise given that FBI Director James Comey has said that one of his top legislative priorities this year is to get the right to acquire precisely such records with those warrantless secret requests, called national security letters, or NSLs. 'We need it very much,' Comey told Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., during a congressional hearing in February.

Crime

FBI Raids Dental Software Researcher Who Found Patient Records On Public Server (dailydot.com) 130

blottsie writes: Yet another security researcher is facing possible prosecution under the CFAA for accessing data on a publicly accessible server. The FBI on Tuesday raided Texas-based dental software security researcher Justin Shafer, who found the protected health records of 22,000 patients stored on an anonymous FTP. "This is a troubling development. I hope the government doesn't think that accessing unsecured files on a public FTP server counts as an unauthorized access under the CFAA," Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and CFAA scholar told the Daily Dot. "If that turns out to be the government's theory -- which we don't know yet, as we only have the warrant so far -- it will be a significant overreach that raises the same issues as were briefed but not resolved in [Andrew 'weev' Auernheimer's] case. I'll be watching this closely." It was also reported this week via The Intercept that a provision snuck into the still-secret text of the Senate's annual intelligence authorization that would give the FBI the ability to demand individuals' email data and possibly web-surfing history from their service providers using those beloved 'National Security Letters' -- without a warrant and in complete secrecy.
Power

US Bans Electronic Cigarettes From Checked Baggage Over Fire Risks (foxnews.com) 131

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this month, the FDA announced it would regulate electronic cigarettes and other new tobacco products. Now, the U.S. Transportation Department announced it is permanently banning passengers and crew members from carrying electronic cigarettes in checked baggage or charging the devices onboard aircraft. They have cited a number of recent incidents that show the devices can catch fire during flight. Passengers can still carry e-cigarettes in their carry-on baggage or on their person, they just can't use the devices on flights. "Fire hazards in flight are particularly dangerous," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. "Banning e-cigarettes from checked bags is a prudent and important safety measure." The new rule covers e-cigarettes, e-cigars, e-pipes, and battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices in general. It does not prohibit passengers from transporting other battery-powered devices for personal use like laptop computers or cellphones.
Security

CIA Watchdog 'Mistakenly' Destroyed Its Only Copy Of A Senate Torture Report (yahoo.com) 209

An anonymous reader writes: According to Yahoo News, the CIA inspector general's office "mistakenly" destroyed its only copy of a mammoth Senate torture report at the same time lawyers for the Justice Department were assuring a federal judge that copies of the document were being preserved. Agency officials described the deletion of the document to Senate investigators as an "inadvertent" foul-up by the inspector general. "CIA inspector general officials deleted an uploaded computer file with the report and then accidentally destroyed a disk that also contained the document, filled with thousands of secret files about the CIA's use of 'enhanced' interrogation methods," reports Yahoo News. The Senate Intelligence Committee and Justice Department knew about the incident last summer, sources said. However, the destruction of a copy of the sensitive report was never made public, nor was it reported to the federal judge at the time who was overseeing a lawsuit seeking access to the still classified document under the Freedom of Information Act. Despite this incident, a CIA spokesperson has said another unopened computer disk with the full report is still locked in a vault at agency headquarters. "I can assure you that the CIA has retained a copy," wrote Dean Boyd, the agency's chief of public affairs, in an email. Feinstein is calling for the CIA inspector general to obtain a new copy of the report to replace the one that disappeared. A 500-page summary was released in 2014, and concluded that the CIA misled Americans on the effectiveness of "enhanced interrogation." Specifically, the interrogations were poorly managed and unreliable.
Government

FDA To Regulate E-Cigarettes Like Tobacco (cnn.com) 342

An anonymous reader writes: Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) have been all the rage lately, as many claim they are healthier than traditional tobacco cigarettes. Since they are so relatively new to the market, the government hasn't been able to effectively study them and determine whether or not they should be regulated like traditional cigarettes and smokeless tobacco -- until now. The FDA has released their final rule Thursday, broadening the definition of tobacco products to include e-cigarettes, hookahs, pipe tobacco, premium cigars, little cigars and other products. "Going forward, the FDA will be able to review new tobacco products not yet on the market, help prevent misleading claims by tobacco product manufacturers, evaluate the ingredients of tobacco products and how they are made, and communicate the potential risks of tobacco products," the agency said. The new rule will go into effect immediately. According to CDC data from 2014, e-cigarette use among adults has gone up about 12.6%. People under the age of 18 will no longer be able to buy these products with the new regulations, and the products will be required to be sold in child-resistant packaging. In addition, the government will now be able to have a say in what goes into the products. Previously, there was no law mandating that manufacturers tell you what you are inhaling when trying their products.
Iphone

Obama: Government Can't Let Smartphones Be 'Black Boxes' (bloomberg.com) 546

JoeyRox writes: President Obama said Friday that smartphones -- like the iPhone the FBI is trying to force Apple to help it hack -- can't be allowed to be "black boxes," inaccessible to the government. He believes technology companies should work with the government on encryption rather than leaving the issue for Congress to decide. He went on to say, "If your argument is strong encryption no matter what, and we can and should create black boxes, that I think does not strike the kind of balance we have lived with for 200, 300 years, and it's fetishizing our phones above every other value." Obama's appearance on Friday at the event known as SXSW, the first by a sitting president, comes as the FBI tries to force Apple to help investigators access an iPhone used by one of the assailants in December's deadly San Bernardino, California, terror attack. "The question we now have to ask is, if technologically it is possible to make an impenetrable device or system, where the encryption is so strong there's no key, there's no door at all, then how do we apprehend the child pornographer? How do we solve or disrupt a terrorist plot?" Obama said. "If in fact you can't crack that at all, government can't get in, then everybody's walking around with a Swiss bank account in their pocket." He said compromise is possible and the technology industry must help design it.
Crime

California Attack Has US Rethinking Strategy On Homegrown Terror (nytimes.com) 676

JoeyRox writes: The recent terror attack in California reflects "an evolution of the terrorist threat that Mr. Obama and federal officials have long dreaded: homegrown, self-radicalized individuals operating undetected before striking one of many soft targets that can never be fully protected in a country as sprawling as the United States." With this new type of terror risk, authorities may begin relying more heavily on citizens reporting suspicious behavior of others. The attack is also expected to renew the debate over privacy versus security for software encryption. President Obama will be addressing the nation tonight to discuss the attack.
NASA

Journalist: NASA Administrator Has Short Memory on Changing Space Policy (spacenews.com) 87

MarkWhittington writes: Recently, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden stated that NASA would be "doomed" if the next president were to deviate in any way from the current Journey to Mars program. Space journalist and founder of the America Space website Jim Hillhouse took exception to Bolden's assertion in a letter to the aerospace newspaper Space News. In the process, Hillhouse provides a good summary of how space policy has evolved during the past five years under the Obama administration.
Crime

Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Paris Attacks; Death Toll At 127 728

The L.A. Times reports that Islamic State, the group variously known as ISIL, ISIS, and Daesh, has claimed responsibility for the multi-pronged terror attack yesterday in Paris which left at least 128 people dead, most of them from among the audience of a rock concert at the Bataclan theater, in the heart of the city. Details of how Friday’s assaults were carried out remained hazy. It was still unclear, for example, whether the restaurants and concert theater were attacked by two separate teams of militants or one group that went from one place to another. ... Attackers opened fire on the crowd with automatic weapons, shouting “God is great!” or blaming France for airstrikes on Islamic State in Syria, according to some reports. Dozens of concert-goers were killed before French forces stormed the theater. Many Parisians posted appeals and photos on social media asking for news of friends or loved ones whom they had not heard from since the attacks. One man said on Twitter that a government hotline set up to inquire about missing persons was so overloaded that calls could not get through. In the wake of the attacks and with an overloaded public infrastructure, Facebook activated its post-disaster check-in tool for Parisians to notify loved ones that they are safe. According to Reuters, French President Francois Hollande has vowed to undertake a "mercliess" response to the attacks.
United States

US Spends $1bn Over a Decade Trying To Digitize Immigration Forms, Just 1 Is Online (washingtonpost.com) 305

Bruce66423 writes: A government project to digitize immigration forms succeeded in enabling exactly one application to be completed and submitted after 10 years of work because of the botched software and implementation. The Washington Post reports: "This project, run by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, was originally supposed to cost a half-billion dollars and be finished in 2013. Instead, it’s now projected to reach up to $3.1 billion and be done nearly four years from now, putting in jeopardy efforts to overhaul the nation’s immigration policies, handle immigrants already seeking citizenship and detect national security threats, according to documents and interviews with former and current federal officials."
Security

TSA Screeners Can't Detect Weapons (and They Never Could) (arstechnica.com) 349

JustAnotherOldGuy writes: TSA screeners' ability to detect weapons in luggage is "pitiful," according to classified reports on the security administration's ongoing story of failure and fear. "In looking at the number of times people got through with guns or bombs in these covert testing exercises it really was pathetic. When I say that I mean pitiful," said Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), speaking Tuesday during a House Oversight hearing concerning classified reports (PDF) from federal watchdogs (PDF). "Just thinking about the breaches there, it's horrific," he added. A leaked classified report this summer found that as much as 95 percent of contraband, like weapons and explosives, got through during clandestine testings. Lynch's comments were in response to the classified report's findings.

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