October 2008 Archives

Though it's not clear yet exactly which band of cyber-thugs launched a denial or service attack on the website of Proposition 8 (a California ballot proposal to outlaw gay marriage) it's clear that bigots now see cyber-intimidation as new tool. 

Equlity California reports

The NO on Prop 8 Web site was hit by a massive cyber invasion called a distributed denial of service attack (DoS) that took down the site for several hours last night, with the assault originating not just in-state, but from Texas, New Jersey and Georgia.

The NO on Prop 8 campaign's Web site attack started late yesterday afternoon when the Web team was alerted by higher-than-normal traffic. The traffic escalated over the next several hours, slowing the system and by 10 pm, a small team of engineers concluded that that NO on 8 website was under a full cyber attack.

"I'm sure we'll hear a lot of denials today from the Prop 8 campaign, but this is clearly an orchestrated attempt to tear down what has become one of the largest grassroots movements in California electoral history," said Patrick Guerriero, NO on Prop 8 Campaign Director. "We have reported this to the FBI and other federal authorities and we have secured our site in ways we never thought would be necessary. But make no mistake - this was an attack against individual rights, not just a Web site."

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in a denial-of-service attack, an attacker attempts to prevent legitimate users from accessing information or services. By targeting a computer and its network connection, or the computers and network of the sites, an attacker may be able to prevent someone from accessing e-mail, Web sites, online accounts (banking, etc.), or other services that rely on the affected computer. The most common and obvious type of DoS attack occurs when an attacker "floods" a network with information.

From what the NO on Prop 8 campaign knows, the DoS attack started yesterday from a small number of individuals. It is believed the attacks, which occurred throughout the night, came from California, Texas, New Jersey and Georgia. The attacks to the site increased from a small number of hosts to dozens. As IP addresses of attackers were blacklisted, new IP addresses emerged and attacked.

The NO on Prop 8 campaign has reported the DoS to the FBI and the Secret Service, which has jurisdiction over such attacks to prevent breaks in the national financial networks.

For more information on NO on Prop 8, please visit www.noonprop8.com.

thanks to the Daily Dish
The Iron Skillet in Texas City, Tex. has police arrest and jail man who gave his girlfriend food from his $7 buffet plate.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports

The old two-for-one buffet trick backfired.

Dan Linscomb, 40, of Texas City, Texas, ate the buffet at the Iron Skillet restaurant in northwest Atlanta on Oct. 21. He admitted, an Atlanta police report said, that his girlfriend "ate a couple bites from his plate."

When he was charged for two $7 buffet meals, Linscomb refused to pay for one of them. He said that "there were no signs in the restaurant that said someone could not have some food off your plate," the report said.

The restaurant staff called police, who came to the restaurant on Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway and arrested Linscomb on a charge of theft of services. He was taken to Fulton County Jail.

Linscomb got out of jail two days later after pleading guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct, Fulton County sheriff's Sgt. Nikita Hightower said.

Linscomb could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon. The Iron Skillet manager who was working when Linscomb was arrested, Jose Quintero, declined to comment.

Thanks to eraser girl


BMI Busts Small Cafe for Playing CDs to Clientele

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At the Classic Cookie, a Waldo, Missouri cafe, proprietor Leslie Stockard regularly played CDs she had bought under the (erroneous) impression that playing them was a form of fair use. Not so, apparently, as music agency BMI demanded licensing fees for unpaid "broadcast" of their intellectual property.

KMBC-TV Kansas City reports

A Waldo cafe owner learned the hard way that there's a price to be paid for playing music in a business. Leslie Stockard has run the Classic Cookie for 10 years. A few months ago, she received a threatening letter from BMI, an agency that represents music artists. "I thought it was a scam. So, I tossed the letters. And then, the letters started to come more frequently," Stockard told KMBC's Jim Flink.

letters warned Stockard that she could be fined for playing CDs in her café. Stockard said she ignored the letters until one day someone came in to deliver the threat in person. "So we turned (the CDs) off for about a week. When I figured he was gone, we turned them back on. I assumed that if I purchased the CDs, if my business purchased the CDs, that I could play them in my business. But apparently that's not the case," Stockard said. "I'd like to make sure other small businesses know to turn off your CDs, unless you want to pay a small licensing fee." Stockard paid $300 in BMI licensing fees, which is the minimum for one year's use. Stockard said that when her year is up, she'll take her CD player out and revert to playing the radio.

thanks to jgodsey
Freedom of Information request for detainee accounts of torture at 'black sites" blown off by federal court in the (surprise) name of national security.

Raw Story reports

The American Civil Liberties Union has condemned a Wednesday decision by a federal judge that prevents its access to unredacted records from the Bush administration related to the detention of 14 suspected "enemy combatants" at Guantánamo Bay.

The records of Combatant Status Review Tribunals contain the detainees' personal accounts of interrogation tactics, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation, extreme temperature exposure and stress positions, that they endured while in custody at secret CIA detention facilities known as "black sites" for up to four years, and then Guantánamo in late 2006. Some records of the tribunals, which took place in March and April of 2007, have been released, but none that contain said accounts.

"Since this FOIA request was submitted," the complaint reads, "the government has formally confirmed that three of the fourteen prisoners were subjected to the brutal practice of 'waterboarding,' a notorious torture technique and the most controversial of the so-called 'enhanced interrogation techniques' employed against prisoners in CIA custody. In light of this revelation, as well as many other disclosures about the treatment of these prisoners, any conceivable basis for withholding the prisoners' accounts of their treatment in U.S. custody has been wholly eviscerated."

"This decision allows the Bush administration to continue its illegal cover-up of its systemic torture policies," said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "The government has suppressed these detainees' allegations of brutal torture not to protect any legitimate national security interests, but to protect itself from criticism and liability. It is unlawful for the government to withhold information on these grounds."

The lawsuit, filed by the ACLU in March, called for the records from the Department of Defense and the CIA on First Amendment grounds and in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, per the request submitted in April of 2007.

None of the nearly two dozen people thrown out of a McCain appearance at the Univ. of Northern Iowa wore "protest" clothing, held any anti-McCain banners or shouted out any slogans, much less were pegged by the Secret Service as potentially violent threats. Yet they were "preventively" removed before the rally by campus security at the request of the campaign.

Iowa State Daily reports  

Audience members escorted out of Sen. John McCain's, R-Ariz., campaign event in Cedar Falls questioned why they were asked to leave Sunday's rally even though they were not protesting.

David Zarifis, director of public safety for the University of Northern Iowa, said McCain staffers requested UNI police assist in escorting out "about four or five" people from the rally prior to McCain's speech.

Zarifis said while the people who were taken out weren't protesting or causing problems, McCain's staff were worried they would during the speech.

"Apparently, they had been identified by those staffers as potential protesters within the event," Zarifis said. "The facility was rented by the RNC for the McCain campaign, so it's really a private facility for them. We assisted in their desires to have those people removed."

Lara Elborno, a student at the University of Iowa, said she was approached by a police officer and a McCain staffer and was told she had to leave or she would be arrested for trespassing.

"It was a very confusing, very frustrating situation," Elborno said. "I said that I had a right to be there, I wasn't doing anything disruptive -- I was sitting, waiting for the rally to start."

She said McCain staffers wouldn't tell her why she was being asked to leave and when she got outside, she saw "a group of about 20 people" who had all been asked to leave.

Elborno said after seeing the people who were asked to leave, she was concerned that McCain's staffers were profiling people on appearance to determine who might be a potential protester.

Random Bag Checks for DC Metro Riders

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In the searches, Transit Police will randomly choose a number, such as 17. Then they will ask every 17th rider with bags to step aside for an inspection before boarding a bus or entering a rail station. If others are acting suspiciously, Transit Police have the right to stop a person not selected for inspection.


The Washington Post reports

Metro officials yesterday announced plans to immediately begin random searches of backpacks, purses and other bags in a move they say will protect riders and also guard their privacy and minimize delays.

The program is modeled after one begun three years ago in New York that has withstood legal challenges. However, experts said it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of such searches, beyond assuring the public that police are being vigilant. New York officials declined to say what they have found in their searches; none of the other transit systems conducting random searches have found any explosives, officials said.

Metro officials said the program was not in response to a specific threat but prompted by increased security concerns before next week's election and the inauguration as well as by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and later bombings of commuter trains in Madrid, London and elsewhere.

Although Metro police said the program will begin immediately, they would not say which of their 86 rail stations or more than 12,000 bus stops would be subject to inspection on any given day. On some days, there might be no inspections, or there might be several. Fifteen officers have been trained to perform searches, and more will be trained, officials said.

Checkpoints will be set up at Metro facilities, and passengers will go through inspections before entering a rail station or boarding a bus. The random searches will focus on detecting explosives, and it is likely that some riders will have their bags inspected before next Tuesday's election, officials said.

Metro, the second-busiest subway system in the country, after New York's, carries more than 1.2 million passenger trips on a typical weekday.

"We realize that all Americans everywhere are at some risk from terrorism, and that those of us who live and work in the region of the nation's capital face increased risks," Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn said at a news conference yesterday.

U.S. intelligence agencies have long warned that the weeks just before an election and immediately after are considered a "zone of vulnerability" for the country. The teams tasked with helping the winner of next week's presidential election transition into office also have been warned about the heightened chances of attack. Officials note that the March 11, 2004, Madrid train bombings took place three days before general elections in Spain.

The Metro searches will take place only when Transit Police determine that circumstances -- such as an elevated threat level -- warrant heightened vigilance. No advance notice will be given, but just before inspections begin, Metro police will post signs alerting riders. Inspections will be conducted by five to eight Transit Police officers and a police dog trained to sniff for explosives. Officials said searches would last eight to 15 seconds.

Transit Police will only inspect areas of bags that are capable of concealing explosives. Police will not be viewing the content of papers or other reading material. But if illegal items such as drugs are found, they will be confiscated as evidence, and police will cite or arrest the individual. Those who refuse to have their bags searched will not be allowed to enter. Transit Police will not arrest people who refuse to have their bags inspected.


After emailing his school principal saying that its employee database was accessible,Clifton Park, NY teen is arrested for multiple felonies including identity theft.

The Tech Herald reports

In a prime example of shooting the messenger, a 15-year old Clifton Park, NY student is now under arrest for computer trespass, unlawful possession of personal identification information and identity theft.

The charges were brought after the student, 10th-grader at Shenendehowa Central School, alerted his principal to the discovery of a database with 250 names of past and present transportation employees.

The school's website explains the start of the story.

"About 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday an e-mail was received by our high school principal informing him that the sender had access to a file that had demographic data about bus drivers. It was signed "A student." The N.Y.S. Police were immediately called and began their investigation into who sent the e-mail."

"In the meantime, the district's Information Services Department (IMS) began to investigate and discovered that two high school students had accessed the file from an internal computer using their student password. Due to a configuration error, this file was not completely secured from student password access after being moved to a new server."

So after admitting that the school improperly secured the employee data, instead of making heads roll within the Information Services Department, the school went after the student. The student, according to local news reports, has been in trouble in the past on unrelated computer mischief.

"This was a district computer at the high school," said Kelly DeFeciani, a school district spokesperson. "We have roaming profiles which show where the users have been when they are using the school computers. Everyone leaves footprints."

According to school officials, anyone with a district password - which includes staff and students - could have accessed the employee data.

Superintendent L. Oliver Robinson, referring to the student charged, said, "His genius was used in the wrong way."

State Police arrested the teen, charging him with computer trespass, unlawful possession of personal identification information and identity theft.

Yet, even investigators are positive the teen wasn't after the information for criminal intent. It was an instance of "Look what I can do," explained Therese Assalian, spokeswoman for the Clifton Park Civil Service Employee Union, citing what investigators had told her.

State Trooper Maureen Tuffey said that the student has been suspended from school, and could face more school related punishments pending a superintendent hearing. His juvenile status likely would prevent him from serving time in jail if convicted, Tuffey added.



New Frontiers in Voter Supression

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Bogus fliers (so 2002) and robocalls (so 2006) are being superceded by a new generation of ways of preventing the wrong people from voting.

The Lawyers' Committee on Civil Rights and Common Cause report

In the last several election cycles, "deceptive practices" have been perpetrated in order to suppress voting and skew election results. Usually targeted at minorities and in minority neighborhoods, deceptive practices are the intentional dissemination of false or misleading information about the voting process with the intent to prevent an eligible voter
from casting a ballot.

 It is an insidious form of vote suppression that often goes unaddressed by authorities and the
perpetrators are virtually never caught. Historically, deceptive practices have taken the form of flyers distributed in a particular neighborhood; more recently, with the advent of new technology "robocalls" have been employed to spread misinformation. Now, the fear is deceptive practices 2.0: false information disseminated via the Internet, email and
other new media.

In the past, the worst practices involved fl yers distributed in predominantly minority communities. The 2004 presidential election cycle provides some particularly vivid examples. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, fliers purportedly from  the "Milwaukee Black Voters League" were distributed in minority neighborhoods claiming "If you've already voted in any election this year, you can't vote in the presidential election; If anybody in your family has ever been found guilty of anything, you can't vote in the presidential election; If you violate any of these laws, you can get ten years in prison and your children will get taken away from you." In Pennsylvania, a letter with the McCandless Township seal on it
falsely informed voters that, to cut down on long lines, Republicans would vote on November 2 and Democrats would vote on November 3--the day after the election. Similar fl iers were distributed at Ross Park Mall in Allegheny County.

In Ohio, a so-called "Urgent Advisory" memo on phony Board of Elections letterhead warned voters that if they were registered by the NAACP, America Coming Together, the Kerry campaign, or their local Congressional campaign, they were disqualifi ed and would not be able to vote until the next election. More recently, automated calls, known as robocalls in the world of political campaigns, have been the weapon of choice. In 2006, the Secretary of State of Missouri, Robin Carnahan, reported that in one county, "robo-calls reportedly
warned voters to bring photo ID to the polls or they would not be allowed to vote. There were also reports on the radio in Kansas City of automated telephone calls telling voters their polling places had been changed and givingincorrect polling place information."1 According to the National Network for Election Reform, "Registered voters in
Virginia, Colorado, and New Mexico reported receiving phone calls in the days before the election claiming that their registrations were cancelled and that if they tried to vote they would be arrested.

 In Virginia, "Voters in Arlington, Accomack, Augusta, and Northampton counties in Virginia received phone calls on November 6 saying voters would be arrested if they attempted to vote on Election Day. Some of the phone calls also told voters that their polling locations
had been moved, although none of the locations had changed." How might such activities translate online? Emails that appear to come from legitimate sources, such as a campaign,
an elections office, a party or a nonprofit organization could be sent in a targeted fashion that contain false or misinformation about the voting time, place or process, or claiming that a poll site has been moved. Just at the time of this writing the first serious instance of email with bogus information came to light in Florida, where voters were receiving emails stating that voters whose ID failed to match a state database on Election Day would be turned away
from the polls.

Making matter worse, spyware could be used to collect information on a voter and their online behavior to better target deceptive emails. Partisan mischief-makers with a bit of technological knowledge could spoof the official sites of secretaries of state, voting rights organizations or local election boards and advertise completely wrong information about anything from poll locations to voter identifi cation requirements. Someone could also appropriatewebsite names that are one letter off from the official site name--a typo domain or "cousin domain"--that appear to be an official site, and post phony information. Pharming--hacking into domain name system servers and changing Internet addresses--could be used to redirect users from an offi cial site to a bogus one with bad information on it.

As more and more people move from traditional phone lines to internet based calling platforms (known as VOIP or Voice Over Internet Protocol), deceptive robocalls might become even more pervasive as they will be virtually untraceable. So far in this election cycle, these tactics have already been utilized to spread false information about candidates.

Barack Obama has been the most prominent target of these attacks. Several emails have circulated widely which have titles such as "Who Is Barack Obama" and "Can a good Muslim become a good American." The content of the emails has often been the same, highlighting Obama's middle name of "Hussein" and incorrectly claiming he is of Muslim faith. While the Obama Campaign suffers through a seemingly unprecedented level of this activity, in 2004
supporters of Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry were sent an email that looked almost exactly like official campaign emails, asking for donations. The email actually came from India and was a scam to steal people's money.

Hillary Clinton did not fully escape such tactics either. The NAACP was forced to release on its website a statement from it's chairman Julian Bond stating that an email listing "10 Reasons Not to Vote for Hillary Clinton" supposedly authored by him was a hoax.
This year during the primaries, according to the online publication Wired, a series of false campaign websites materialized that appeared to be legitimate, such as FredThomsonForum.com, RudyGiulianiForum.com, and MittRomneyforum.com. Wired reported that these sites featured posts "under the impersonated names of popular
political pundits and bloggers" and "promote misleading links to candidate sites that route to YouTube videos attacking them. Most posts adopt the persona of a supporter of the candidate, while offering views that amount to over-the-top parodies of genuine boosters."

After the primaries, domain names with prospective and actual vice-presidential nominees' names popped up, leading to sites with unexpected information. For example, Obama-Biden.org and Obama-Biden.com diverted people to the website of the American Issues Project, an extremely anti-Obama third party organization. As reported by the
Los Angeles Times, the McCain-Romney.com website took viewers to the "offi cial home of the Hundred Year War...and Bush's Third Term!"

An extensive analysis of abuse of campaign domain names found that, "Candidates have not done a good job at protecting themselves by proactively registering typo domains to eliminate potential abuse. In fact, we were only able to fi nd one single typo web site that had been registered by a candidate's campaign - http://www.mittromny.com. All
other typo domains were owned by other third parties that appeared unrelated to the candidate's campaign."

This same study also enumerated several specifi c instances of "typo squatting" of domain names that were meant to look like actual campaign websites, including such gems as "narakobama.com" and mikehukabee.com." These sites were either advertising sites or directed users to sites with "differing political views." Phony campaign websites have also been created to dupe people into making campaign donations that are really
going into someone's pocket, not any campaign. In 2004, phishers (people who use e-mail to fraudulently obtain data from a user) set up a fi ctitious website purporting to be for the Democrats that stole the user's credit card number,
and another site that had users call a for-fee 1-900 number.

 This year, an Internet site was set up offering to register people to vote for $9.95, a process that is free. In August 2008, the Federal Trade Commission issued a warning
to consumers about voter registration scams. Prospective voters were receiving emails and phone calls from people claiming to be affi liated with an election board or civic group and asking for the person's social security number or credit card number to confirm eligibility or registration to vote. The FTC said the purpose was to commit identity theft.

This report seeks to explore how such attacks might take place in the voting rights context and the measures that can be taken to contend with them effectively. The main focus of the report is an investigation into whether our existing state and federal legal structure is suffi ciently equipped to deter and punish perpetrators of online deceptive practices. On the state level, we examine current anti-hacking and computer crimes laws, laws regarding
the unauthorized use of state seals and insignia and impersonation of public offi cials, and voting rights laws. Each of these subsections is accompanied by recommendations for ways in which state laws can be improved to better address these types of serious transgressions. We also look extensively at current federal law, including the Voting Rights Act, copyright, trademark, anti-cybersquatting laws, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Wire Fraud
Statute, Section 230 of the Communications Act, and the Can-Spam Act. Again, recommendations for improving
federal law are offered.

Town city council "dress code" would outlaw costume parties.

St. Louis Today reports

If you're thinking about trick-or-treating in Belleville and you are in the ninth grade or higher, think again.

Today, Belleville Mayor Mark W. Eckert signed a new law -- approved by the Belleville City Council Monday night -- that sets new rules for those wanting to dress up for Halloween and on other days of the year.

The new law, prompted by complaints from homeowners who were scared by late-night trick-or-treating, will:

* Ban anyone in the ninth grade and up from trick or treating on Halloween unless they are a "special-needs" child, who must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

* Limits the hours of trick-or-treating on Halloween night from 5 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. No one can trick or treat later than 8:30 p.m.

*Allow children, 12 years old or younger, to wear a mask or disguise any day of the year. Anyone older than that can only wear a mask or disguise on Halloween, but not on any other day of the year.


Eckert said that he and the City Council members have spent a year discussing ways to protect children on Halloween night and to address the concerns of homeowners who say high school teens knock on their doors late at night on Halloween demanding treats.

"We believe that Halloween is for little children," Eckert said in an interview. "We just feel that we need to go that extra mile to protect the children."

Thanks to Wendy Mcelroy

From the Annals of War on Drugs dept.

The NY Post reports

A gang of rogue cops clobbered a Brooklyn man they saw smoking a joint, then sodomized him with a walkie-talkie antenna during a broad-daylight attack in a subway station, law-enforcement sources and the victim's lawyer said yesterday.

The alleged attack, reminiscent of the 1997 police assault on Abner Louima, put Michael Mineo, 24, in Brookdale Hospital for four days.

"This is one of the most horrendous and grievous cases I've ever seen," said Mineo's lawyer, Stephen Jackson, who will file a notice of claim against the city next week.

In the Louima case, the victim was black, the attackers white. In this case, Mineo is white and the officers are black, Hispanic and white.

Law-enforcement sources said the investigation was focusing on five cops - four patrol officers from the 71st Precinct and a transit officer - all of whom were characterized as relatively inexperienced.

The officer who allegedly committed the sodomy is believed to be in his 20s, with 2½ years on the job.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said the department's initial investigation turned up little to support Mineo's story.

"Police officers grappled with an individual who they observed smoking marijuana after he had fled and resisted being handcuffed," said Browne. "His assertion that he was sodomized is not supported by independent civilian witnesses."

But law-enforcement sources told a different story to The Post - specifically noting that at least one witness reported seeing Mineo's exposed buttocks as cops held him down. A co-worker at the Jiggaman tattoo parlor on Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn said Mineo had been released from the hospital, but was in pain and did not appear to be improving.

"He's getting pale," said Keasha Brown, 25. "He's looking sick. Those people are dangerous. It makes me sick."

Mineo was walking from his home to the Prospect Park subway station on Empire Boulevard at Flatbush Avenue at about 2 p.m. on Oct. 15 when two uniformed officers spotted him allegedly smoking a joint.

They chased him into the station, and at some point, Mineo allegedly swallowed the marijuana. Five cops tackled him near a token booth, where they beat him and stood on his neck, said Jackson and the law-enforcement sources.

One officer then allegedly pulled Mineo's pants down and shoved a police radio's antenna into his rectum.

The cops then hauled a bleeding Mineo into a police car and issued him a desk-appearance ticket before cutting him loose, Jackson said.

They also warned him not to report the incident or they would upgrade his charge to a felony, according to the attorney.

Jackson said his client heard one of the officers yell, "No! Don't do it!" as his pants were being pulled down. His roommate and co-worker, Jason Amolsch, found him yelling that the "cops violated him."

Sources said the officers are still on active duty.

"It's alarming that you have police officers out there who, for all intents and purposes, are guilty of gang rape," said Jackson.

Mineo has a pending assault case in Brooklyn.

Thanks to Anthony Gregory

A "Public" Report the Public Can't See

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The good news: The public investigative report on warrantless wiretapping mandated by the US congress last summer will be published. The bad news: you won't be able to read it. 

Newsweek reports

When Congress passed a landmark electronic-spying bill last summer, the measure included a key provision that ordered the inspectors general of U.S. intelligence agencies to produce the first-ever public report on President Bush's warrantless-surveillance program.

The report isn't due until next July--long after Bush leaves office. But when the inspectors general recently submitted their first "interim" report to Congress under the measure, it wasn't made public. Instead, the brief document, written by CIA inspector general John Helgerson, was marked classified--a move that has drawn a stiff protest from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes.

In an Oct. 10 letter, Reyes complained to Helgerson (who is coordinating the review by 16 different inspectors general) for submitting a secret interim report when Congress envisioned a document that could be shared with the public. The letter essentially said, "Here's what the law says, please explain why you're not following the law," Courtney Littig, a spokeswoman for the House Intelligence Committee, tells NEWSWEEK.

Reyes's letter also included a request that the inspectors general issue a "preservation order" preventing White House or intelligence community officials from removing or destroying documents relating to the warrantless-surveillance program. With barely three months left in the administration, Reyes wanted to make sure that "they don't destroy anything before they walk out the door," Littig says.

The dispute might not seem entirely unexpected. A veil of super secrecy has surrounded the program since President Bush, in the weeks after 9/11, directed the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct surveillance of phone calls and e-mails of terror suspects inside the United States without judicial warrants. The little-noticed provision for a public inspectors-general report was crucial to gaining the support of some liberal Democrats--including Sen. Barack Obama--for last summer's bill, which allowed a modified version of the program to continue.

At the time, Obama was attacked by liberal bloggers for reversing his position on one of the most controversial provisions in the bill: a section, strongly backed by the White House, that granted blanket immunity to telecommunications companies facing lawsuits for participating in what critics charged was an illegal program. But Obama pointed to the mandate for a public report as a reason he was finally prepared to back the measure--even though it would squash lawsuits that could have led to a public airing of the extent of warrantless spying conduct by the administration. "The Inspectors General report provides a real mechanism for accountability and should not be discounted," Obama wrote in a statement posted on his Web site on July 3. "It will allow a close look at past misconduct without hurdles that would exist in federal court because of classification issues."

Asked for comment, Michael Ortiz, a spokesman for Obama, said: "Senator Obama continues to believe that the public deserves to know that there is accountability and oversight of the surveillance program and urges that a nonclassified report from the IG be made available to Congress." But a U.S. intelligence community official, who asked not to be identified, talking about sensitive matters, insisted there was no intent on the part of Helgerson or the other inspectors general to ignore the congressional requirement for a public report on the surveillance program. The official said the National Security Agency--which conducted the warrantless surveillance--was still reviewing the material in the interim report in an effort to see what can be declassified. "This is simply the first step. The review is not over by any means," the official said.

Sources familiar with the interim report said there is nothing all that sensitive about it. The document merely outlines the "scope" of the review that the inspectors general plan to conduct in preparation for the final report due next July.

As for the demands for a preservation order, the official said: "Directives have been issued to preserve records relating to this surveillance program. But, as Congress is aware, intelligence community inspectors general have clearly defined authorities. Those authorities don't, as a rule, extend to giving orders to the White House."

Littig says the intelligence committee has no evidence that documents about the surveillance program were being destroyed. But, she adds that given the tangled history of the program--and the limited disclosure provided to Congress over the years--"we've learned to be very specific."


The free Republic of the United States of America, as of 2pm ET today ,was home to 305 million 482 thousand plus, and counting, citizens. All of them endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights etc.,subject to and protected by the US constitution. Unfortunately, for those living within 100 miles of any US border, a full two-thirds of the population, constitutional protections such as the right to be free from random searches do not apply, or rather apply at the discretion of Border Patrol and may be suspended at will.

ACLU blog reports

Using data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, the ACLU has determined that nearly 2/3 of the entire US population (197.4 million people) live within 100 miles of the US land and coastal borders.

The government is assuming extraordinary powers to stop and search individuals within this zone. This is not just about the border: This " Constitution-Free Zone" includes most of the nation's largest metropolitan areas.



Libertarian Radley Balko on why the GOP must be utterly humiliated at the polls.

Progressive Glenn Greenwald on why an Obama election must generate more agitation and activism rather than complacency for those who take personal freedoms and the Bill of Rights seriously.
Brian Barnett, a candidate for a state house district seat, arrested for sign calling Republican opponent, a town alderman, "chickenshit" for refusing to let him into campaign debate. 

The Daily Citizen reports

While mudslinging is a common activity in some election races, a Green Party candidate has apparently turned to fertilizer in his bid for office.

Brian Barnett, 32, was arrested by Searcy Police midday Friday for refusing to cover profanity on a political sign he was holding on a street corner. Barnett opposes Republican Kyle Reeves and Democrat Monte Betts in the race for House District 50, a seat currently held by David Evans, in the Nov. 4 general election. Evans is term-limited. Reeves is a Searcy alderman.

Just before noon Friday, Barnett was standing at the northwest corner of Beebe-Capps Expressway and South Main, near a former feed store containing numerous Reeves signs, holding a sign. The sign's four lines said, "Debate Brian! Chicken s***; 1. Kyle Reeves; 2. Monte Betts." Barnett could be seen speaking to passersby as they rolled down their windows. Nearby workmen said they did not notice Barnett.

At 11:37 a.m., Searcy Patrolman Tyrel Johnson arrived and spoke to Barnett about the sign.

"You can probably get away with saying he's chicken, but since he's an alderman and a member of the city council, you can't," Johnson told Barnett. "That word is not acceptable."

Barnett explained the sign to Johnson, saying it was designed to call attention to the refusal of Reeves and Betts to debate him.

"When you call someone chicken s*** that means they're scared," Barnett said.

When Sergeant Tom McGee arrived, the three went next door to a tire shop and Barnett could be heard offering to change the sign. Within minutes, however, Barnett was arrested, charged with disorderly conduct, apparently for refusing to obey an officer.

"I asked him on four occasions to remove those letters from that sign," McGee said. "He did remove the 'i' but I asked him to remove the entire word."

Barnett said on his first attempt to change the sign he changed the 'i' to an "L," and when the officers were still insistent, Barnett said he changed it to an "X."

"Freedom of speech is saying something that someone might not like," Barnett shouted to a Daily Citizen reporter while handcuffed and being led to a patrol car, where he was placed in the back seat.

Within minutes, Barnett was taken out of the car, given a citation and was allowed to go free. The sign was returned to Barnett and he was told he could stand where he chose with the sign. Barnett, confused as to why he was allowed to continue displaying the altered sign, now showing an "X" over the "i," was told the matter would be explained to him further at his Nov. 20 court date in White County District Court, Searcy Division.

"I believe I was harassed," Barnett said. "The officer said, 'A city councilmen has disagreed with your sign. They were even telling me that I could not say something that offends someone else."

However, a police spokesman said Reeves did not call the department until he heard of the incident from a Daily Citizen reporter after Barnett was arrested. Officers responded to a caller who said Barnett's sign contained profanity and that they were concerned that Barnett was standing too close to the street. After citing Barnett, McGee cautioned Barnett about standing too close to the street.

"He didn't comply enough," said Terri Lee, police spokesman. "The 'i' was crossed out with a mark that looked like an "I." It wasn't enough. They [the officers] could still read it and they wanted it where it wasn't offensive to anyone."

The Green Party stands for clean air, Barnett said, and he was opposed to the Wall Street bail-out. Barnett, a resident of Meadowlake Apartments who said he was formerly a hospital telemetry technician who is now a full-time campaigner, was asked if he took a leave of absence from his job or was fired.
Thanks to the Agitiator

Ilegal Cha-cha Lessons Land Texas Man in Jail

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Judge sentences dance teacher to 30 days in jail after he violates court order against teaching cha-cha within 25 miles of his former employer Arthur Murray dance studios.

Dallas News reports

Instead of dancing with the stars, Eric Rush is dancing behind bars.

Teaching the cha-cha sent him to the slammer.

Last week, a Collin County district judge ordered Mr. Rush to serve 30 days in the county jail for contempt of court after violating an order prohibiting him from teaching dance lessons within 25 miles of a Plano dance studio.

The jail sentence is the latest step in a 10-month legal tango featuring a studio that says it's protecting its business and a former instructor who says he can't imagine life away from the dance floor.

Mr. Rush's former bosses at Arthur Murray Dance Studios said the dancer violated terms of a non-compete employment agreement. By teaching near the studio, they said, Mr. Rush could undermine their "competitive advantage."

Mr. Rush acknowledged he tap-danced around the law and violated the court order, but he said the 25-mile order is too restrictive.

"I love to dance; it's my soul," the 37-year-old said from jail this week. "It's been one of the callings of my life. I still want to teach. I want to eat. This is what I've been doing for years. I just want to make a living."

Attorney Anne Terwilliger said that her client, the dance studio, tried hard to avoid going to court but that Mr. Rush wasn't willing to comply with the non-compete clause.

"Mr. Rush certainly reaped the benefits of having extensive training by world-renowned experts," Ms. Terwilliger said. "He violated the agreement and did not fulfill his end of the bargain. ...

"All the company has tried to do in this situation is simply protect its rights and to enforce legal obligations."

Web site advertising

Court documents show that Mr. Rush, whose dancing name is Eric Romero, worked at Arthur Murray in Plano until December. He said he was fired, but Ms. Terwilliger said he made his own decision to resign.

Weeks after Mr. Rush left, the studio went to court, saying that Mr. Rush had violated the employment agreement by creating a Web site advertising his work, posting Craigslist notices offering his services and contacting Arthur Murray students.

The studio's co-owners, Claudia and Zack Knoche, could not be reached for comment Friday.

District court Judge John Roach Jr. ordered Mr. Rush to discontinue any Web sites, quit soliciting Arthur Murray customers and refrain from working with area dance studios until the end of 2009.

But Mr. Rush tripped up in September.

In a court affidavit, a customer says Mr. Rush taught her the cha-cha and other moves at Tango & Cha Cha's dance studio in Dallas - in defiance of the court order.

The customer says Mr. Rush talked with her about posture, eye contact and "connecting with other people on the dance floor." They danced to "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," the affidavit states.

Mr. Rush said he kept teaching because he has a passion for dancing.

"It's part of who I am," he said. "If it means confronting me and imposing fear in me, bring it on. I'm in jail now. What more can you do?"

Doug Magary, Mr. Rush's lawyer, said the Knoches are treating Mr. Rush as if he's stolen Coca-Cola's secret formula.

"They're killing a fly with a bazooka," Mr. Magary said. "They've gone to such extreme lengths ... to put one person who's a lowly dance instructor out of work."

Ms. Terwilliger said the dance studio pursued the matter in court because of Mr. Rush's "continued violations, his refusal to comply with the terms of the agreement he had entered into and the court's orders."

'Rhythm of life'

Mr. Rush is as graceful off the floor as he is on it, waxing philosophical about his craft. Dancing is spiritual, and dancers create magic, he said.

"It's about two people, kind of meeting in a common place and finding the same rhythm of life," he said. "It means healing. It means grace, serenity, elegance, sex appeal. It means ambition and drive and achievement and confidence."

Mr. Rush acknowledged he could teach in cities such as Arlington and Fort Worth and still obey the court order. But the Plano resident said that's too far away, considering the cost of gas and the shaky economy.

Mr. Rush shrugged off the idea of not cutting a rug. After he gets out of jail, he hopes to keep dancing and teaching.

For now, though, his dance uniform is a bright red jail jumpsuit.

Even a jail sentence hasn't stopped Mr. Rush from groovin'. He taught another inmate the bachata, a Latin-inspired club dance move.


Thanks to Jonathan turley


Jail Time for Using Converted Garage as a bedroom

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For over thirty years, since purchasing a house in La Quinta, California in 1977 Adega Camargohas been using a space officially zoned as a garage as a bedroom. Now the city is planning to put her in prison unless the woman, who lives on soical security funds, completes a $10 thousand re-onversion of the space into a garage by Janaury.

The LA Times reports

Ageda Camargo was sitting in her shady frontyard, wondering aloud if jail is as bad as it sounds.

"I'm thinking of writing Martha Stewart to ask what it's like," said the soft-spoken 83-year-old. "Do they put you in a cell? I wouldn't want to be in a cell."

These weren't idle worries.

Camargo, a grandmother of six, has run afoul of La Quinta's code enforcement in a big way, big enough to put her behind bars.

The city near Palm Springs insists that one of her three bedrooms is really an illegally converted garage. She insists it's just a bedroom.

"What right do they have to call this a garage?" she asked, walking around the room with its cabinets, sink, bathroom and refrigerator. "I never called it a garage. How do they know it's not a bedroom? If this is a garage, then they owe me a bedroom."

For 18 months now, code enforcement officials have been after Camargo to turn the bedroom back into a garage. Insisting that her home is her castle, she has ignored more than a dozen warnings.

Her resistance crumbled last week when a local judge ordered her to comply or face possible jail time.

"It's traumatic. It's like tearing my house down," she said. "I bought this place 30 years ago, and it was always a bedroom. And now they are trying to shove this down my throat."

City building and safety director Tom Hartung said that an illegally converted garage poses health and safety risks but that going to court is a last resort.

"To say we should not enforce the ordinances based on the demographics of the owner of the property is unrealistic," he said. "We can't do that."

Hartung said that in his 25-year career, he's seen only one person jailed over a violation.

"I think we are very fair," he said. "I don't think you will find a more reasonable department."

Camargo grew up on a family farm in nearby Thermal. In 1977, she moved to Avenida Montezuma in La Quinta, attracted by the isolation and soaring views of the nearby Santa Rosa Mountains.

"I was crazy about those mountains," she said, relaxing under a vine-covered pergola in her frontyard. "There were no neighbors then, nothing but sand dunes. I loved it."

Her troubles began when a code enforcement officer spotted a light shining from her garage into the street, a code violation. He noticed her trash cans in front of the house (another violation) and weeds poking through the concrete (yet another one).

But what really caught his eye were the garage doors. They were firmly fixed in the driveway and didn't open. Windows lined one side wall of the attached structure.

"He began yelling orders at me and said he wanted to bring in inspectors," Camargo said. "He wanted to come in, and I said, 'No way am I going to let you in. Are you telling me this isn't America anymore?' "

Undeterred, code enforcement sent letter after letter warning that continued defiance could mean a fine or jail. The department gave her repeated extensions to undo the conversion. Still she didn't budge.

"I know rules are rules, but this is harassment," said Mike Head, Camargo's son. "She has undergone three surgeries in the last two years. She had breast cancer. She had brain surgery, which took her a year to recover from, and I still think she's a little dingy from that."

On a recent morning, in thick glasses and a long floral dress, she seemed more anxious than "dingy."

"I never had a garage," said Camargo, who parks in the driveway. "I don't need one or want one."

Nevertheless, the city finally took the gloves off. Code enforcement showed up recently with three inspectors, two police officers and a search warrant.

Jarrod Head, Camargo's 29-year-old grandson, who lives with her, was sleeping in the disputed bedroom when they arrived.

"They pushed right in," he said. "I said, 'What's this about?' but they were busy taking pictures. When I asked why they were taking pictures, the police asked me for my ID. I asked why they needed my ID, and they put me in handcuffs."

Camargo was indignant.

"I didn't like to see my grandson handcuffed," she said. "The inspector went into the bedroom and said, 'I can tell this has been added on.' They gave me two weeks to put it into compliance."

Mark Moran, a member of the Riverside County Advisory Council on Aging, called the situation "elder abuse." He filed a complaint with Adult Protective Services, which has opened a case.

"You would think Ageda Camargo was hiding Osama bin Laden in the house, given the way they have come after her," he said.

City prosecutor Noam Duzman denies that La Quinta is targeting the elderly woman. He said that the city has "bent over backward" to resolve the dispute but that Camargo has not been forthcoming and refuses to abide by the law.

"She believes that since she bought the house this way, it isn't her responsibility," Duzman said. "The county and city code says if you build or convert something, you need a permit. I get the feeling she felt if she stuck it out long enough we'd drop this -- but we won't because it's a public safety issue."

Last week Camargo was in court. The judge ordered her to pay a $3,000 fine, which she said she couldn't afford. She asked for the other option -- 30 days in jail.

"She insisted on jail time instead," Duzman said. "I went on record in front of the judge to say that the city did not recommend this."

The estimated cost of fixing the problem is $10,000. Camargo said she lives on Social Security and income from a reverse mortgage.

If the work is done by Jan. 12, the fine and threat of jail will be dropped.

Thanks to Eraser Girl
Historians protest European trend of criminalizing historically incorrect memories.

Timothy Garton Ash writes in The Guardian:

Among the ways in which freedom is being chipped away in Europe, one of the less obvious is the legislation of memory. More and more countries have laws saying you must remember and describe this or that historical event in a certain way, sometimes on pain of criminal prosecution if you give the wrong answer. What the wrong answer is depends on where you are. In Switzerland, you get prosecuted for saying that the terrible thing that happened to the Armenians in the last years of the Ottoman empire was not a genocide. In Turkey, you get prosecuted for saying it was. What is state-ordained truth in the Alps is state-ordained falsehood in Anatolia.

This week a group of historians and writers, of whom I am one, has pushed back against this dangerous nonsense. In what is being called the "Appel de Blois", published in Le Monde last weekend, we maintain that in a free country "it is not the business of any political authority to define historical truth and to restrict the liberty of the historian by penal sanctions". And we argue against the accumulation of so-called "memory laws". First signatories include historians such as Eric Hobsbawm, Jacques Le Goff and Heinrich August Winkler. It's no accident that this appeal originated in France, which has the most intense and tortuous recent experience with memory laws and prosecutions. It began uncontroversially in 1990, when denial of the Nazi Holocaust of the European Jews, along with other crimes against humanity defined by the 1945 Nuremberg tribunal, was made punishable by law in France - as it is in several other European countries. In 1995, the historian Bernard Lewis was convicted by a French court for arguing that, on the available evidence, what happened to the Armenians might not correctly be described as genocide according to the definition in international law.

A further law, passed in 2001, says the French Republic recognises slavery as a crime against humanity, and this must be given its "consequential place" in teaching and research. A group representing some overseas French citizens subsequently brought a case against the author of a study of the African slave trade, Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau, on the charge of "denial of a crime against humanity". Meanwhile, yet another law was passed, from a very different point of view, prescribing that school curricula should recognise the "positive role" played by the French presence overseas, "especially in North Africa".

Fortunately, at this point a wave of indignation gave birth to a movement called Liberty for History (lph-asso.fr), led by the French historian Pierre Nora, which is also behind the Appel de Blois. The case against Pétré-Grenouilleau was dropped, and the "positive role" clause nullified. But it remains incredible that such a proposal ever made it to the statute book in one of the world's great democracies and homelands of historical scholarship.

This kind of nonsense is all the more dangerous when it comes wearing the mask of virtue. A perfect example is the recent attempt to enforce limits to the interpretation of history across the whole EU in the name of "combating racism and xenophobia". A proposed "framework decision" of the justice and home affairs council of the EU, initiated by the German justice minister Brigitte Zypries, suggests that in all EU member states "publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes" should be "punishable by criminal penalties of a maximum of at least between one and three years imprisonment".

Who will decide what historical events count as genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, and what constitutes "grossly trivialising" them?

International humanitarian law indicates some criteria, but exactly what events qualify is a matter of often heated dispute. The only cast-iron way to ensure EU-wide uniformity of treatment would be for the EU to agree a list - call it the Zypries List - of qualifying horrors. You can imagine the horse-trading behind closed doors in Brussels. (Polish official to French counterpart: "OK, we'll give you the Armenian genocide if you give us the Ukrainian famine.") Pure Gogol.

Since some countries with a strong free-speech tradition, including Britain, objected to Zypries' original draft, the proposed agreement now also says: "Member states may choose to punish only conduct which is either carried out in a manner likely to disturb public order or which is threatening, abusive or insulting." So in practice, individual countries will continue to do things their own way.

Despite its manifold flaws, this framework decision was approved by the European Parliament in November 2007, but it has not been brought back to the justice and home affairs council for final approval. I emailed the relevant representative of the current French presidency of the EU to ask why, and just received this cryptic but encouraging reply: "The FD 'Racism and xenophobia' is not ready for adoption, as it is suspended to some outstanding parliamentary reservations." Merci, madame liberté: that will do till the end of this year. Then let the Czech presidency of the EU, which covers the first half of next year, strike it down for good - with a dose of the Good Soldier Svejk's common sense about history.

Let me be clear. I believe it is very important that nations, states, peoples and other groups (not to mention individuals) should face up, solemnly and publicly, to the bad things done by them or in their name. The West German leader Willy Brandt falling silently to his knees in Warsaw before a monument to the victims and heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto is, for me, one of the noblest images of postwar European history. For people to face up to these things, they have to know about them in the first place. So these subjects must be taught in schools as well as publicly commemorated. But before they are taught, they must be researched. The evidence must be uncovered, checked and sifted, and various possible interpretations tested against it.

It's this process of historical research and debate that requires complete freedom - subject only to tightly drawn laws of libel and slander, designed to protect living persons but not governments, states or national pride (as in the notorious article 301 of the Turkish penal code). The historian's equivalent of a natural scientist's experiment is to test the evidence against all possible hypotheses, however extreme, and then submit what seems to him or her the most convincing interpretation for criticism by professional colleagues and for public debate. This is how we get as near as one ever can to truth about the past.

How, for example, do you refute the absurd conspiracy theory, which apparently still has some currency in parts of the Arab world, that "the Jews" were behind the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks on New York? By forbidding anyone from saying that, on pain of imprisonment? No. You refute it by refuting it. By mustering all the available evidence, in free and open debate. This is not just the best way to get at the facts; ultimately, it's the best way to combat racism and xenophobia too. So join us, please, to see off the nanny state and its memory police.

Thanks to Wendy McElroy 
As far as I can tell this didn't originally appear in the Onion, unfortunately. And, yes, the name of this little all-American fascist burg is Bayonet Point.

The St. Petersburg Times reports

BAYONET POINT -- On Friday morning, Joseph Prudente put on a pair of shorts and his "Grandpa Gone Wild" T-shirt. He took off his wedding band and put his heart medication in a plastic Wal-Mart bag.

Then his daughter drove him to jail. Grandpa had time to do.

His crime? He had disobeyed a court order that he sod the lawn at his Beacon Woods home.

His bail? Zero.

Prudente, 66, must stay in the Pasco County jail in Land O'Lakes until the required sod work is completed, under a September court order signed by Circuit Judge W. Lowell Bray.

"He's in prison for God knows how long because we can't afford to sod the lawn," said his sobbing daughter, Jennifer Lehr.

Prudente has owned a home in the deed restricted community since 1998. The covenants require homeowners to keep their lawns covered with grass.

Earlier this year, the Beacon Woods Civic Association took Prudente to court after he failed to install new sod on his browning lawn, which had withered after his sprinklers broke. The association had already sent letters telling him to resod his front and back yards by certain dates.

In an interview at the jail Friday evening, Prudente said he thought he had made a good financial hardship case to the association: His adjustable rate mortgage went up an extra $600 a month. Wachovia repossessed his Toyota Scion. His daughter and her two young children, who had fallen on hard times, moved in with him and his wife, Pat.

"To me, keeping the house is more important than the grass," said Prudente, a retired registered nurse from New York. "I just ignored them."

He ignored them, too, after the association filed a complaint in court. He ignored a court order in May, signed by Bray, giving Prudente 30 days to sod the yard.

In June, the court also awarded the association $795 in fees, which included a $645 attorney's fees and a $150 fee for "an expert witness."

By September, there was still no sod. Bray found Prudente in contempt of court, but said in his order that Prudente could "purge himself of this contempt" by doing the required work within the next 30 days. That time expired Friday.

"It is clear to the Court that the ability to avoid incarceration is well within the Defendant's grasp," Bray wrote.

Representatives of the Beacon Woods association expressed regret Prudente had landed in jail. But they said it was his own fault.

"It's a sad situation," said board president Bob Ryan, who added that the association had followed all the correct procedures. "But in the end, I have to say he brought it upon himself."

Lawyer Thomas Gurran, who represents the association, said in a statement that the association had "just wanted Mr. Prudente to comply with the lawn restriction." He added that the contempt power of judges is essential to the system.

"Many orders and judgements ... would be absolutely meaningless if they could not be enforced by a judge's contempt power," he said. "This case is an example of what happens when someone defies an order entered by a judge in our country."

Prudente's family said the case had gone too far. Pat Prudente said she and her husband knew they had chosen to live in a community with restrictions. "But they shouldn't have this much power," she said.

Back at the jail -- where the population is 1,132, well above the 782 capacity -- Parente said he was being treated well. He has no criminal record in Florida and said his stay in Land O'Lakes was his first time ever in a slammer.

What comes next? He doesn't know. "Should I go out and rob a bank? Then I'd be back here," he said. "But then I'd get out on bail."

Thanks to Jonathan turley


State police in Maryland at least (one wonders where else similar things are going on) admot to stuffing names of peacefully protesting citizens into federal terror databases.

The Washington Post reports:

The Maryland State Police classified 53 nonviolent activists as terrorists and entered their names and personal information into state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects, the state police chief acknowledged yesterday.


Police Superintendent Terrence B. Sheridan revealed at a legislative hearing that the surveillance operation, which targeted opponents of the death penalty and the Iraq war, was far more extensive than was known when its existence was disclosed in July.

The department started sending letters of notification Saturday to the activists, inviting them to review their files before they are purged from the databases, Sheridan said.

"The names don't belong in there," he told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. "It's as simple as that."

The surveillance took place over 14 months in 2005 and 2006, under the administration of former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). The former state police superintendent who authorized the operation, Thomas E. Hutchins, defended the program in testimony yesterday. Hutchins said the program was a bulwark against potential violence and called the activists "fringe people."

Sheridan said protest groups were also entered as terrorist organizations in the databases, but his staff has not identified which ones.

Girl likely to be required to register as a sex offender for abusing a minor, herself.

Newark Advocate reports:

A 15-year-old girl is accused of distributing nude photos of herself to other minors, and one state legislator is questioning whether she should be labeled a sex offender.

The Licking Valley High School student was arrested Friday after school officials discovered the materials and brought in the school's resource officer for a police investigation.

After spending the weekend incarcerated, she pleaded deny Monday to both charges: illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material, a second-degree felony; and possession of criminal tools, a fifth-degree felony.

The child pornography charge for a convicted adult requires a Tier II sexual offender classification, but for a juvenile of this defendant's age, the judge has flexibility, said Jennifer Brindisi, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.

"There's a part of juvenile section of Senate Bill 10 (Ohio's version of the federal Adam Walsh Act) that says if the child is a first-time offender and age 14 or 15 that the judge can decide not to make her register," she said.

State Rep. Jay Hottinger, R-Newark, wrote the state's Megan's Law bill, the predecessor of the Adam Walsh Act, and said this case was not something the legislature envisioned.

"Clearly it was in an illegal act," he said Tuesday. "Clearly it was an unacceptable act, and there needs to be consequences from that, but we need to make sure the punishment is a reasonable punishment."

Licking County Prosecutor Ken Oswalt, who declined comment ahead of a written statement to be released today, had been visiting high schools in the county and educating teens on the consequences of such an action. Licking Valley High School was one of those stops.

During assemblies, Oswalt talked about the dangers, both in personal embarrassment and contribution to child pornography on the Internet.

He said in April his office had received about 20 cases involving questionable cell phone pictures. None were charged pending their adherence to a plan crafted with their families.

Licking County Assistant Prosecutor Erin Welch said Monday the investigation into the incident remains open, including exploring whether charges will be filed against the minors who received the photos.

If the prosecutor's office elects to bring those teens into court, they could be facing a different section of the same charge pending against the sender of the pictures and classification as sex offenders, as well.

According to Ohio law, 2907.323(A)(3) states anyone possessing material that shows a minor in a state of nudity is guilty of a fifth-degree felony. The violation also might qualify the juvenile as a Tier I sexual offender, which requires annual registration for a decade.

The section of the law the girl, who is a foster child, was charged with allows parents or guardians to take photos of their unclothed children for a list of acceptable purposes but does not provide an exemption for the child themselves.

Hottinger said the portions of the juvenile section of Ohio's Megan's Law, enacted in 2002 and replaced Jan. 1, were crafted to resemble their adult counterparts for good reason.

"What we're aiming at was a growing problem that we were seeing amongst juveniles and that was they were committing some very serious adult-like crimes," he said.

Brindisi said the Adam Walsh Act reduces much of the discretion allotted to judges in Megan's Law and transformed sex-offender classification to an offense-based system.

"It's pretty black and white," she said.

If the girl charged Monday is classified as a sexual offender, Brindisi said as a juvenile in this instance she would not be subject to publication on the public Web sites maintained by the Licking County Sheriff's Office or the state but would have to register for 20 years as the law states.

A status conference in her case is scheduled for Oct. 20. She is on house arrest and may not have a cell phone or access to the Internet without adult supervision and for no purpose other than school work.

Licking Valley Schools Superintendent Dave Hile said board policy calls for notification of certain staff members if a student or other individual labeled as a sex offender is on school grounds.

Thanks to Jonathan turley


From the United States of Paranoia Dept.

The Press Republican (NH) report

Keene Valley resident Jerilea Zempel was detained at the U.S. border this summer because she had a drawing of a sport-utility vehicle in her sketchbook.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers told Zempel they suspected her of copyright infringement.

She was released after more than an hour in custody at the Houlton, Maine, port of entry from New Brunswick, Canada.

Her release came only after she persuaded border guards she was an artist doing a project that involved a crocheted SUV as a statement against America's dependence on oil and love for big vehicles.

SHROUDED CAR

Zempel's adventure began when she was returning from the Cultural Capital Festival in Sackville, New Brunswick, where her submission was an SUV cozy on a rented Hyundai Santa Fe.

"I wanted to turn an oversize, macho, gas-guzzling vehicle into a technological ghost by shrouding it in a white, fuzzy cover reminiscent of women's handiwork from another time, another place."

After the festival, Zemple headed for home in her own Toyota Prius hybrid and stopped at the border crossing on Interstate 95 in Maine.

"What happened when I re-entered the U.S. made me ponder what my lowly art project could mean in a larger political sphere.

"And it gave me an idea for a title: the Homeland Security Blanket."

SEARCH AT BORDER

Zempel's passport showed she'd been to Africa, Australia, Central and South America, Mexico, Turkey and Europe in the last nine years.

"U.S. citizens who've traveled to the places I've been need to be looked at. A half hour at the computer gave the agent cause to put me into another suspicious category, meriting a full car search. She (the agent) took my keys and went through my car.

"After going through my (laptop) computer, digital camera, cell phone, business cards, suitcase, reading materials, boxes of yarn and crochet tools, she returned with my sketchbook.

"I was taken to a room and told to sit on a bench with handcuffs at both ends. But they did not handcuff me."

Thanks to boing boing

s


Field test conducted at time of arrest misidentified white powder deodorant as cocaine.

Kare11.com Twin Cities, MN reports

A Shakopee man who spent two months in jail after being found with white powder has been cleared after tests showed the powder was deodorant, not cocaine.

Thirty-one-year-old Cornelius F. Salonis was arrested Aug. 3 for allegedly driving drunk. He was jailed after police said they found cocaine in his car.

Salonis' attorney blames a faulty field test for the false result. Richard Hillesheim says a state crime lab concluded the powder was deodorant.

Prosecutors dismissed the felony drug charges Wednesday and allowed Salonis to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of drunken driving.

He was sentenced to a year in jail. But the judge stayed nine months of the sentence and removed another month for good behavior. So with the two months he already served, Salonis was freed.

Thanks to the Agitator
Akron High Schoolers civilly disobey public school district's ban on hooded sweatshirts.

WKYC.com Cleveland reports

Dozens of North High students are sitting at home for challenging Akron's new dress code.

District leaders confirm that the students were wearing hooded sweatshirts or 'hoodies' in violation of the district's new dress code policy.

Nearly 100 students challenged the dress code by wearing hoodies to class, and some students believed that all 100 had been suspended.

According to Julia Mann, district spokeswoman, many of the students agreed to take their hoodies off when faced with discipline, but more than 30 were suspended for insubordination.

One student tells Channel 3 News that the student body was upset that the 'hoodie' policy wasn't being enforced equally from school to school.

The student also said that classmates wore hooded sweatshirts as a way to stay warm Wednesday on the first cold day of the year.

Akron's new dress code took effect in August and requires students in grades K-8 to wear polo shirts and slacks but stops short of requiring strict uniforms.

While high school students can continue to wear jeans and T-shirts, 'hoodies' were outlawed district-wide.

Thanks to jgodsey


The Arkansas Wicca Trial?

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Woman claims Arkansas court denied her child custody due to alleged wicca practices.

The Arkansas News Bureau reports

A Southeast Arkansas woman who argued she lost custody of her son because of a judge's perception of her alleged practice of Wicca lost her appeal Wednesday before a divided state Court of Appeals Wednesday.

In a 4-2 ruling, the appeals court affirmed a decision granting custody to the child's father, though the judges disagreed on whether the lower court considered the mother's religious beliefs.

In her appeal of Chicot County Circuit Judge Robert Vittitow's decision, the mother noted Vittitow described Wicca in his opinion letter as "a religion, movement, cult or whatever it that may be."

The judge also wrote that while the mother testified she was only joking when she told the boy's father that she was involved with Wicca, the "court believes she is much more involved than she would lead us to believe."

In the appeals court ruling Wednesday, Judge Robert J. Gladwin wrote that religious beliefs and practices are material only as they affect children's best interests, and in this case "no party explored connections between religious belief and upbringing."

"There is no basis to hold that the trial court resolved this initial custody determination on (the mother's) interest or involvement with Wicca, but simply pointed out (her) lack of credibility on the issue," Gladwin wrote.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Sarah J. Heffley wrote the circuit judge "impermissibly considered (the mother's) alleged interest in Wicca, which taints the outcome of its decision to change custody."

Heffley also wrote Vittitow made a medical diagnosis - the mother had said she had been taking medication for depression and anxiety but no longer needed them - without the benefit of expert testimony or reports or any type.

Judge Josephine Linker Hart also dissented, writing she was glad the appeals court agreed that basing a custody decision on a parent's religious beliefs "is unequivocally wrong," but that in this case "the majority in one way or another excuses this obvious trial error."

She said the majority opinion "simply 'sets aside' the trial judge's comments regarding Wicca."

"Along the way, however, they twist the words in the finding regarding (the mother's) alleged practice of Wicca to be a finding regarding (her) credibility, notwithstanding the fact that this case does not turn on the credibility of any witness."

Hart also said the circuit judge considered Hicks' mental health without any evidence.

Siding with Gladwin in the majority opinion were Judges Mac Glover, Wendell Griffen and D.P. Marshall.

Thanks to Wendy McElroy





College Says No Free Speech Without a Permit

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Yuba college student, a Christian fundamentalist, facing expulsion for speaking on campus green outside school's permitted hours of free speech, noon to 1pm Tuesdays and Thursdays.

WorldNet Daily reports

A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Yuba College student Ryan Dozier after he was cited for speaking on the Northern California campus without a permit and warned a second offense could result in his expulsion.

"Students do not need a permit to exercise their First Amendment rights on campus," said Heath Gebelin Hacker, litigation staff counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom, which is handling the case for Dozier.

"When a student can be threatened with a citation and expulsion while peacefully sharing a Christian message, American colleges can no longer be considered a marketplace of ideas," she said.

A WND message left for Paul Mendoza, the school's chief officer, requesting a comment was not returned.

The ADF Center filed its lawsuit over the school's policies that limit student free speech activities to just two hours per week - and then require a permit to be obtained two weeks in advance.

It was on Feb. 27 when Dozier arrived on campus in Marysville, Calif., north of Sacramento, to go to class and share a Christian message with fellow students.

"Dozier was approached by a campus police officer, who told him he needed a permit for such activity and that he would be arrested and face expulsion if he continued. The college allows 'free speech' only on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m., with permission required two weeks in advance," the law firm said.

A few weeks later, Dozier got a certified letter from Mendoza, with a copy forwarded to the chief of police.

"I will, at this point, issue you a written warning to not violate the 'Student Code of Conduct' or any rule or college policy pertaining to student conduct, time, place, and manner or other requirements of the college," the letter said. "Should you violate my directive, you will face further discipline up to and including expulsion from the college. Do not let this happen!

"I trust you will adhere to my directive," Mendoza wrote.

However, there are problems with the policy and its enforcement, according to the lawsuit.

"A student peacefully exercising his First Amendment right to speak on campus is committing no crime," Hacker explained. "Yuba College is the one running afoul of the law by unlawfully censoring Christian student speech on campus."

In addition to the lawsuit, ADF attorneys are asking the court to suspend the problematic policies while the case moves forward in court.

Dozier had been doing nothing more than trying to engage in one-on-one discussions with fellow students on campus and hand out tracts.

"Dozier positioned himself in the open, main area of campus near the library and stood off to the side of the sidewalk near the grass. The area resembles a public park and is uniquely suitable for expressive purposes," the lawsuit said. "Discussion in this area on social, cultural, political, religious and other issues does not interfere with the conduct of classes on campus."

The school's policies, the lawsuit challenges, "restrict and abridge the expressive rights of college students. ... With [its] scheme, college admnistrators have unfettered discretion in determining where, if anywhere, student speech may occur."

Thanks to Wendy McElroy
Department of Homeland Security's National Applications Office domestic satellite imagery surveillance program moves ahead despite documented lack of privacy safeguards and continued congressional concerns.

The Wall Street Journal reports

The Department of Homeland Security will proceed with the first phase of a controversial satellite-surveillance program, even though an independent review found the department hasn't yet ensured the program will comply with privacy laws.

Congress provided partial funding for the program in a little-debated $634 billion spending measure that will fund the government until early March. For the past year, the Bush administration had been fighting Democratic lawmakers over the spy program, known as the National Applications Office.

The program is designed to provide federal, state and local officials with extensive access to spy-satellite imagery -- but no eavesdropping -- to assist with emergency response and other domestic-security needs, such as identifying where ports or border areas are vulnerable to terrorism.

Since the department proposed the program a year ago, several Democratic lawmakers have said that turning the spy lens on America could violate Americans' privacy and civil liberties unless adequate safeguards were required.

A new 60-page Government Accountability Office report said the department "lacks assurance that NAO operations will comply with applicable laws and privacy and civil liberties standards," according to a person familiar with the document. The report, which is unclassified but considered sensitive, hasn't been publicly released, but was described and quoted by several people who have read it.

The report cites gaps in privacy safeguards. The department, it found, lacks controls to prevent improper use of domestic-intelligence data by other agencies and provided insufficient assurance that requests for classified information will be fully reviewed to ensure it can be legally provided.

A senior homeland-security official took issue with the GAO's broad conclusion, saying the department has worked hard to include many layers of privacy protection. Program activities have "an unprecedented amount of legal review," he said, adding that the GAO is seeking a level of proof that can't be demonstrated until the program is launched.

Homeland Security spokeswoman Laura Keehner said department officials concluded that the program "complies with all existing laws" because the GAO report didn't say the program doesn't.

Addressing the gaps the agency cited, Ms. Keehner said current laws already govern the use of intelligence data and the department has an additional procedure to monitor its use. The department will also work with other intelligence agencies to "ensure that legal reviews and protection of classified information will be effective," she said.

In response to the GAO report, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi and other Democrats asked Congress to freeze the money for the program until after the November election so the next administration could examine it.

But the bill Congress approved, which President George W. Bush signed into law Tuesday, allows the department to launch a limited version, focused only on emergency response and scientific needs. The department must meet additional requirements before it can expand operations to include homeland-security and law-enforcement surveillance.

The restrictions were "the most we could have required without a complete prohibition," said Darek Newby, an aide to Democratic Rep. David Price of North Carolina, who heads the House homeland-security spending panel.

But California Rep. Jane Harman, who heads a homeland-security subcommittee on intelligence, said that even limited funding allows the department to launch the program, providing a platform to expand its surveillance whether or not privacy requirements are met.

"Having learned my lesson" with the National Security Agency's warrantless-surveillance program, she said, "I don't want to go there again unless and until the legal framework for the entire program is entirely spelled out."


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