By Alex Marthews
Part of the vision of the Founders was a republic so peaceful and so brimming with liberty that, in the words of the prophet Micah, “Every man shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid.”
What we want as a movement is not simply an end to mass surveillance, but the revival of the ability to live free, creative, loving and flourishing lives. The best way to crush creativity and destroy happiness at work is to track every worker’s every activity, every moment of every day. A nation is no different. We all need space; we need free air to breathe; we need the knowledge that our government knows its bounds, and will not trespass into our lives without reason.
Instead, under President Obama, we see peaceful water protectors shot with rubber bullets and water cannons; protesters against police abuse spied on using stingrays and spy planes; and all of our communications sucked into the NSA’s rapacious maw. Under President Trump, we can expect more of the same.
At this point, everyone should realize that there’s a process at work here that the President doesn’t really control — a corrupt, out-of-control DC-based deep state that has no problem sacrificing your privacy and mine in the name of counter-terrorism, efficiency, and profits, while committing crimes of their own without comeback or consequences.
But it’s also important to realize that in our towns, cities, counties and states, we can meaningfully rally back against what they’re trying to do. Across America, we’re organizing to pass surveillance oversight ordinances that can protect your town from surveillance technologies being deployed without your knowledge or consent. We’re using the courts to argue for restoring the Fourth Amendment. Our growing network of chapters is helping Americans everywhere use tools like Tor, Signal and Protonmail to protect themselves better.
One day, as Micah says, there shall be none that shall make us afraid. But there’s a little work to be done before we get there. Join us, and help Restore The Fourth.
The night of November 8 brought a storm to Washington, not of hope but of alienation and resentment. Trump’s improbable win has handed authoritarian Republicans the keys to all three branches of government.
In North Carolina, surveillance state apologist Richard Burr beat out ACLU chief Deborah Ross; in Wisconsin, Russ Feingold, the sole and honorable vote in the Senate against the PATRIOT Act in 2001, lost out to incumbent Ron Johnson. During the campaign, Trump enthused about the NSA, and called for Snowden’s execution. For those concerned about the surveillance state, there is little indeed to smile about this morning.
In this somber dawn, there are nevertheless a few potential points of light. First, the hideous cavalcade of horrors that was the presidential campaign challenged the narrative of a heroic FBI among partisans of both parties. Few indeed in Washington should think it reasonable to reward Jim Comey with more ability to spy on our communications, after this. Second, blue states continued to make limited progress against the drug war, by passing initiatives legalizing recreational use of marijuana. Third, the campaign made the right wing view Julian Assange and Wikileaks with favor, making it possible that the new administration will treat them with a less heavy hand. Last, Trump’s voter base are likely to have little patience with the kind of DC corruption that swirls around the national security state.
Each of Restore The Fourth’s chapters, and every surveillance activist, must gird up to fight passionately in the months ahead. There will be more surveillance. There will be suspicionless searches, seizures, arrests and deportations of Trump’s least favored groups: Muslims, immigrants, and people of color. We must harness the outrage of ordinary people across the country to retake our rights. Neither your religion, nor your beliefs of any kind, nor your race, make the State your master, or give it the right to pry at will into your affairs. No matter what retaliation will result, we will hold true to that vision, and work for better days ahead.
Please, give today to help us Restore The Fourth.
By Danielle Kerem
In a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Restore the Fourth and a coalition of civil society organizations have called on the government to clarify the legal basis for a classified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court order that allegedly compelled Yahoo to scan hundreds of millions of user email accounts for a digital signature associated with a foreign power.
According to the initial Reuters report, Yahoo “secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials.” According to some surveillance experts, Yahoo’s program may be unprecedented — representing the “first known case of a US internet company agreeing to a spy agency’s demand by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time.” In response to these disturbing revelations, Restore the Fourth has demanded the following from the Director of National Intelligence:
- Honor the pledge your office made to “provide timely transparency on matters of public interest” by disclosing publicly the interpretation of law and of the Fourth Amendment that was relied upon to justify this surveillance;
- Release as quickly as possible the FISA Court opinion and order that compelled the surveillance to occur, as is required in the USA FREEDOM Act and as is consistent with the ODNI Principles of Intelligence Transparency Implementation Plan;
- Disclose whether the reported practice involved the scanning of email content;
- Disclose the types of selectors that the government believes are permissible under the authority it used;
- Provide any legal interpretations of FISA that reflect the government’s view of the scope of technical assistance it can compel providers to afford it;
- Indicate the total number of times such an order has been issued to a provider compelling a scan of all incoming email (or a search of comparable scope), as well as the year in which such a surveillance order was first issued.
The news of Yahoo’s bulk scan of customer emails is only the latest example of Silicon Valley’s troublesome enabling of the American intelligence community’s surveillance and collection methods – revealing the duplicity of Yahoo’s “Users First” approach and provoking serious questions regarding the sincerity of providers’ commitment to protecting digital security and client data.
By Ed Quiggle, Jr.
On Tuesday, November 8th the 2016 General Election will be held, and all 18 Pennsylvania seats in the US House of Representatives will be up for election, as well as one of Pennsylvania’s two seats in the US Senate (Senator Pat Toomey’s seat). Restore the Fourth has created a website called DecideTheFuture.org to rate our politicians’ records on important internet freedom and privacy legislation.
While most of Pennsylvania’s delegation to Congress has leaned towards restricting internet freedom, eroding the 4th amendment and privacy protections, and increasing illegal global mass surveillance, there are some who are on what we are calling “Team Internet,” fighting to protect internet freedom and your privacy rights. The members of Pennsylvania’s delegation to Congress who are part of Team Internet are Rep. Scott Perry (R-4th), Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-2nd), Matthew Cartwright (D-17th), Rep. Mike Doyle (D-14th), and Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-8th). All received a score of A+ on DecideTheFuture’s scorecard, and Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-12th) scored a B-.
Meanwhile, both of Pennsylvania’s US Senators have a horrible record when it comes to opposing mass surveillance and defending internet freedom, Democratic Senator Bob Casey got a D+, and Republican Senator Pat Toomey, who is facing re-election this year, scored an F. These Senators join the rest of Pennsylvania’s delegation to Congress who are on what we refer to as “Team NSA.” Rep. Lou Barletta (R-11th), Rep. Tom Marino (R-10th), Rep. Charles Dent (R-15th), Rep. Mike Kelly (R-3rd), Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-7th), Rep. Tim Murphy (R-18th), and Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-16th) all received an F. They are joined by Rep. Ryan Costello (R-6th), Rep, Bill Shuster (R-9th) who both received a grade of D, and Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-13th), and Rep. Bob Brady (D-1st) who both received a grade of D+. Rep. Glenn Thompson’s (R-5th) record is unclear.
Of particular importance to those of us in the Susquehanna Valley are the races for the 10th District and the 11th District. In the 11th District, incumbent Republican, and Team NSA member, Rep. Lou Barletta faces Democratic candidate Mike Marsicano. Marsicano said that, “With respect to NSA policy as it applies to the 4th Amendment, [I’m] against any attempt to censor mass phone or Internet traffic. I oppose any attempt to weaken the encryption or [to create] backdoor standards of our tech companies,” when asked for his position on NSA mass surveillance and attempts by Congress to weaken encryption standards and to force companies to create backdoors in their software.
In the 10th District, Team NSA member, incumbent Republican Rep. Tom Marino faces Democratic challenger Mike Molosevich. At the time of publication, we do not have any information on Molosevich’s position on privacy and internet freedom issues, but should we obtain this information, this article will be updated to include his positions.
There are only three congressional races in Pennsylvania where there will be no incumbent running for re-election. In the 8th District, one Team Internet member, Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, who scored an A+ on DecideTheFuture’s scorecard, is not seeking re-election. Rep. Fitzpatrick’s brother, Brian Fitzpatrick, a former FBI agent, is seeking the seat as the Republican candidate, and faces Democratic candidate, and current PA State Representative, Steve Santarsiero. Brian Fitzpatrick’s campaign web site does not include his positions on privacy rights and internet freedom, and likewise, Santasiero’s campaign web site does not include his positions on privacy rights and internet freedom. As a State Representative, Santasiero is not a co-sponsor of HB 2046 or HB 409. HB 2046 is a bill that would require law enforcement agencies to get warrants before using stingrays, dirtboxes, and other cell site simulators. HB 409 is a bill that requires law enforcement agencies to request and receive authorization from a Superior Court judge before being able to use a drone.
In the 2nd District, a Team Internet member who received an A+, Rep. Chaka Fattah, lost in the Democratic primaries in April to State Representative Dwight Evans. Evans faces Republican candidate James Jones for Fattah’s seat, in the General Election. As a State Representative, Evans did not support HB 2046 or HB 409. Neither Evans nor Jones list their positions on privacy rights and internet freedom on their respective campaign web sites.
In the 16th District, one Team NSA member, Rep. Joe Pitts, will not be seeking re-election, and those running to replace Rep. Pitts include Libertarian candidate Shawn Patrick House, Republican candidate, and current PA State Senator, Lloyd Smucker, and Democratic candidate Christina Hartman. Libertarian candidate Shawn Patrick House said, “My campaign is rooted in using the US Constitution to bind once again an overreaching Federal bureaucracy that has continued to spy and collect personal information from honest law abiding Citizens in violation of our 4th Amendment rights to be secure in our homes, persons and property. I oppose stop & frisk, would work to exonerate & protect whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and others. Repeal the PATRIOT Act, NDAA, and shut down the TSA,” when asked for his position on privacy rights and internet freedom. Republican candidate, State Sen. Lloyd Smucker, does not address privacy and internet freedom issues on his web site and also was not a co-sponsor of State Sen. Mike Folmer’s 2 year State and Local Government Drone Moratorium bill. Democratic candidate Christina Hartman also did not include her position on privacy rights and internet freedom.
Included below is a link to find out who the candidates are that are running in your area. There are so many running that I did not have time to contact every candidate running and ask their campaign where the candidate stands on internet freedom, mass surveillance, the 4th amendment, and privacy rights, but I urge you to do that for the candidates running in your district.
To find out which congressional district you live in using your zip code, go to: http://www.house.gov/htbin/findrep
For more information on the races and the candidates running, go to: https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_House_of_Representatives_elections_in_Pennsylvania,_2016
For more information on how the candidates were scored and their votes on key internet freedom and privacy legislation, go to: https://www.decidethefuture.org/
By Danielle Kerem
A new Department of Homeland Security proposal, currently under review, asks that visitors entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program disclose Facebook, Twitter, and other online usernames in order to facilitate government analysis of all visa-waiver applicants’ social media activity and connections. Today, Restore the Fourth and a coalition of over two dozen human rights and civil liberties organizations sent a letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection outlining the program’s disproportionate risks, excessive costs, and other serious shortcomings as well as encouraging CBP to dismiss the proposal. As our letter explains, the proposed program would “invade individual privacy and imperil freedom of expression while being ineffective and prohibitively expensive to implement and maintain.”
The collection of online identity data would offer DHS a window into travelers’ private lives as well as provoke the expansion of unwarranted surveillance activity. Moreover, an online identity data collection program – while enforced on all visa-waiver applicants in theory – will likely exacerbate existing discrimination against Arab and Muslim travelers by inviting contextless scrutiny of these visitors’ social media content. Moreover, this “disparate impact will affect not only travelers from visa-waiver program countries, but also the Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans whose colleagues, family members, business associates, and others in their social networks are exposed to immediate scrutiny or ongoing surveillance, or are improperly denied a visa waiver because of their online presence.”
In addition to the program’s negative consequences for privacy and freedom of expression, the collection of travelers’ social media usernames will also prove to be a strikingly ineffective method of detecting genuine national security risks as “individuals who pose a threat to the United States are highly unlikely to volunteer online identifiers tied to information that would raise questions about their admissibility to the United States.” The proposed screening methods will instead yield a flood of social media data, data unlikely to generate any actionable intelligence, and lead to an escalation of costs that would “render the proposal prohibitively expensive and with no conclusive benefits to the mission of DHS.” As such, we join our 27 partners in asking that CBP decline to implement this invasive, costly, and ineffective program.
Why “more surveillance” is not the answer to the atrocity in Orlando
By: Alex Marthews, National Chair
After the appalling deaths of 49 people, and injuries to another 53, at a gay nightclub in Orlando this week, the presidential candidates leapt to push their own agendas. For Trump, it was about immigration; he magically transformed the US-born shooter into an Afghan, in order to emphasize that he was right about banning Muslim immigration. For Clinton, it was about gun control; she called for better background checks and limits on obtaining assault weapons. But when it came to surveillance, they might as well have been singing from the same hymn-sheet.
Clinton called for an “intelligence surge,” for increased internet surveillance and suppression of First Amendment-protected speech, to prevent “radicalization”; for propaganda promoting a US-government-seal-of-approval version of Islam; praised a “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE) program that marks for intervention Muslims whose politics deviate from what the FBI thinks acceptable; and suggested that people on due-process-free terrorism watchlists should not be allowed to buy guns. Then, she wrapped her actual policy proposals in a cotton-wool language of diversity and inclusion, and claimed that this is not “special surveillance on our fellow Americans because of their religion.” She talked about “Islamism” rather than “Islam”, in order to claim to not be against Islam in itself—but in her world, the government gets to define who is a good and who is a bad Muslim. Perhaps the “bad Muslims” in her mind include citizens like Ayyub Abdul-Alim, imprisoned for refusing to inform on other Muslims for the FBI, who seems only have wanted to help strengthen his community; or Tarek Mehanna, imprisoned for translating al-Qaeda documents and posting them online, who held atrocious opinions but never planned or participated in a violent attack.
Trump, with a little less cotton-wool, actually says much the same about surveillance. Domestically, the “Muslim community” will “have to cooperate with law enforcement and turn in the people who they know are bad”, which is what CVE is intended to achieve, and what Mr. Abdul-Alim is in prison for resisting. Trump proposes an “intelligence gathering system second to none” that “includes better cooperation between state, local and federal officials,” and says that intelligence and law enforcement are “not being allowed to do their job.” And he wraps this up with vehement expressions of solidarity with the LGBT community.
There’s no evidence that mass surveillance, conducted and promoted by the government, works. In every country that is hit with any attack, large or small, there are calls for more surveillance, then more attacks, then more surveillance, then more attacks. It’s a vicious ratchet that we can only step off by becoming aware of it. France implemented its mass surveillance law before the Paris attacks: The law didn’t prevent them. France now lives under a state of near-martial law, where what we would call ordinary First and Fourth Amendment rights have been suspended. Britain is in the process of passing a new surveillance law that will enable the government to view your browsing history without a warrant, and already outlawed “glorifying terrorism.” They have gone farther along this ratchet than we have, but they are not reducing their chance of being attacked; instead, the purpose is to reduce the chance that a given politician will be blamed for “not doing enough” against terrorism. In truth, there is no perfect safety, and there is a small proportion of violent criminals in every country that the State is ultimately powerless to eliminate.
Our own mass surveillance systems led this “lone wolf” to be found and interviewed by the FBI, twice. But neither Clinton nor Trump articulate clearly what they thought the FBI should have done next, perhaps because there’s nothing more the FBI could lawfully have done regarding allegations of terrorist affiliation. If the aim of surveillance is for the FBI to interview suspected “radicals,” what should they do then to prevent an entirely hypothetical attack? Preventively detain them, without charge or trial, as happened to Jose Padilla? Preventively shoot them before they kill anyone else, as happened with Usaama Rahim? Do we want a State that, claiming to keep us safe, claims the right to do that to any of us? We are already part-way down that road; has it helped us so far?
State surveillance cannot save us from mass violence. It’s a poor guarantor of LGBT people’s safety. The sad truth is that there is a tendency to violence in every human being’s heart, irrespective of religion. Guns help violent people carry out their violent fantasies on a larger scale, and while comprehensive background checks wouldn’t have helped with this attack, the evidence suggests that they would probably help to prevent others. Mass surveillance doesn’t even enjoy that evidentiary advantage; last time the surveillance agencies were actually confronted on their assertion that mass surveillance had helped to prevent terrorist attacks, during the debate over the renewal of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, the agencies’ claims shriveled under scrutiny like an ice-cream in the sun.
More than that, the State perpetrates mass violence on a scale much vaster than a single violent, conflicted misogynist. On a daily basis, the lives the State takes in the name of the War on Terror far exceed the number of lives taken by terrorists. We’re busy implementing a cure that causes more pain than the disease, because the State does not value enough or see enough glory in a more peaceful path. Why, then, should we trust the State with more power over the lives of Muslims and other “extremists,” here or abroad?
Instead of the State, we should look to each other. We should consider how we can build bonds of friendship and support that will encourage kindness, courtesy, and an appreciation of our mutual humanity. As we volunteer together, worship together, take care of loved ones together, work on good causes and reach out across lines of race and religion to those in distress, we step by step build the thriving “beloved community” of which Martin Luther King spoke long ago, so that even when attacks happen, they cannot break our bonds to one another. And so long as we work to trust one another, we can guard safely our thoughts, our opinions, and our liberties, even against a State that urges us constantly, for the sake of “safety,” to abandon them.
By Zaki Manian, National Board Secretary and Chair of RT4 San Francisco Bay Area
Today, an idea that was born in the Restore the Fourth Legislative Working Group almost 2 years ago became law. Our idea was to block a strategy by which mass surveillance had been quietly creeping into our communities. The federal government had been quietly funding local police departments’ purchases of powerful surveillance technologies that were deployed with great secrecy. These included cell phone interception equipment and automatic license plate readers.
Our strategy for blocking these technologies was to encourage municipalities to start to regulate surveillance technology in the broadest possible manner. We felt that to be effective, an ordinance would have to do three things:
– Require public debate and a usage regulation before the equipment was deployed
– Require annual reporting how the surveillance technologies were being used
– Require criminal penalties if these regulations were intentionally avoided
The law that was adopted in Santa Clara is the first in the country to do these 3 things. We think passing this law will be a firewall against the secret adoption of current and future surveillance technologies like mass biometric collection.
Along the way, we learned that the California ACLU was working on the same problem and we collaborated closely on the model ordinance. We could not have done this without the tireless efforts of Tessa, ACLU Northern California’s community organizer and Tracy from the Oakland Privacy Working Group.
Our next steps are to pass a similar ordinances in communities across the country. The process has already started in Palo Alto, Oakland, Santa Cruz and Alameda. Today’s unanimous vote will massively accelerate the process. We need Restore the Fourth members to start work on bringing this ordinance to city councils nationwide, especially in Southern California, New York and Illinois. Reach out for more on how to get involved.
The FBI’s Campaign to Expand the Scope of National Security Letters Endangers Privacy and Encourages Abuse
By Danielle Kerem
The latest manifestation of federal law enforcement’s efforts to circumvent the Fourth Amendment and degrade the security of Americans’ electronic data has taken the form of a secret provision introduced into the text of the Senate’s annual intelligence authorization bill as well as a proposed amendment to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The provisions would allegedly “give the FBI the ability to demand individuals’ email data and possibly web-surfing history from their service providers without a warrant and in complete secrecy.”
Restore the Fourth has joined a coalition of 25 civil society organizations, businesses, and trade associations in expressing our strong opposition to this expansion of the National Security Letter (NSL) statute, an expansion that would enable the government to access a broader class of Electronic Communication Transactional Records (ECTR) and obtain “sensitive information about users’ online activities without court oversight.” Since the enactment of the 2001 USA Patriot Act, the FBI’s NSL authority has radically expanded and, in 2015, the agency made 48,642 warrantless demands for information – often accompanied by gag orders prohibiting recipients from revealing the request’s existence.
In our letter to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, we explain that the widening scope of administrative subpoenas “would paint an incredibly intimate picture of an individual’s life,” as the ECTRs – generally limited to phone and bank records – would now potentially include “a person’s browsing history, email metadata, location information, and the exact date and time a person signs in or out of a particular online account.”
Moreover, the letter highlights the FBI’s past violations of the NSL statute and contends that the proposed expansion would only exacerbate the pattern of abusive investigatory practices. In fact, a 2007 Department of Justice review of the FBI’s procedures concluded that the agency was guilty of “serious misuse of the FBI’s national security letter authorities”. For these reasons, the coalition concludes our letter with a demand that lawmakers honor the Senate’s commitment to effective monitoring and oversight by removing language from both bills that would expand the government’s warrantless access to Americans’ internet data and erode consumer privacy rights.
By Alex Marthews, National Chair
Attacks like this are intended to provoke a government backlash. The only thing that can persuade ordinary Muslims that a group of criminal murderers does in fact have their interests at heart, is the government stepping up its persecution of ordinary Muslims.
The truth is, you can’t solve criminal attacks like this by stepping up surveillance. Belgium was already in a state resembling martial law. France, before the Paris attacks, had already implemented mass Internet surveillance. It simply doesn’t work to thwart attacks; it floods law enforcement with false leads, when they’d be more effective if they focused on the ones with actual evidence of criminality to back them up.
This is the wisdom of the Fourth Amendment: It forces law enforcement to focus its investigations on cold hard facts, not on hot air. Warrants and probable cause are there for a reason, and have served us well.
Fear is easy; overcoming fear is harder. We mourn those attacked, and we refuse to let fear dictate our actions. We truly believe that the best way to keep this country safe is to defend the principles of the Bill of Rights, against cheap hucksters trying again and again to exploit tragedies to grab power. We should all trust our neighbors, however few or many Gods they believe in, far more than we should trust the defenders of the deep state.
Soon, you will start seeing SSL encryption implemented site-wide. We do this in solidarity with Reset the Net and because it’s the right thing to do. We’re working through the process of allocating funds and acquiring the certs, and expect to have it implemented by month’s end!
We encourage everyone to use encryption and secure technologies, not just when necessary, but all the time.