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Member since: Fri Sep 8, 2006, 12:47 PM
Number of posts: 11,301

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Cellphone spying technology being used throughout Northern California


Michael Bott, and Thom Jensen, News10 2:25 a.m. EST March 7, 2014

At least seven law enforcement agencies in California are using controversial technology that allows them to secretly collect data from cellphones and track people, News10 has learned.

Hundreds of pages of documents, from grant applications to purchase orders, show that the technology has been here for years and it's been used in dozens of arrests. In Oakland, a device called a StingRay allows police to track people and collect real-time data from every cell phone within a certain radius. The city's Targeted Enforcement Task Force II used a Stingray to make 19 arrests in 2009, according to an Oakland Police Criminal Investigation Division report.

StingRays are being paid for mostly by Homeland Security grant money distributed by the California Emergency Management Agency, under programs such as the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) or the State Homeland Security Program (SHSP). Grant applications from several agencies show local law enforcement are justifying the purchase of StingRay technology as an anti-terrorism tool, but it's being used to apprehend and prosecute suspects in routine crimes, from robberies to homicides.

None of the 19 arrests made using the StingRay in Oakland in 2009 were related to terrorism.

Added on edit: A spokesperson for the Electronic Frontier Foundation says that StingRays can also capture
the content of phone calls:


...Can you start off by explaining more about what kind of information the StingRay can gather? Can it eavesdrop on actual conversations?

It can capture conversation. There have been some assurances that these specific sorts of StingRays being used by local law enforcement aren’t doing that, but we do know that they have the capability of doing so.

They also have the capability of capturing the metadata or the information about how you communicate. And in these specific instances of local law enforcement using them, they’re using that information to pinpoint the person’s location.

It’s my understanding that this technology is being used by some law enforcement without a warrant. An Oakland Police Department spokesperson told me in an email that prior to 2009 no warrant was required — but that now, depending on how it’s being used, a search warrant may or may not be required. What’s your understanding of how often warrants are being obtained?

That’s a big question mark because there’s a lot of secrecy surrounding the use of these devices. I’m not quite sure why the shift in 2009, and I’m encouraged that they claim they are using search warrants today, but I will note that there has been some concern revealed through public records requests that the ACLU of Northern California did, that some federal court officials, some federal judges, were concerned that law enforcement requesting orders to use these devices weren’t being completely forthright with the judges. That they were in fact using StingRays to get some of this information. And so, again, there’s a lot of uncertainty about it. They certainly should be using a search warrant, because these devices capture very rich, detailed and intimate information about a person’s location and how they communicate and who they communicate with, and also have the capability to catch the actual content of conversation

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Sat Mar 15, 2014, 06:49 PM (3 replies)

Reason #43 gun controllers fail: They believe their own PR

I saw this over at the Palace of Ideological Purity:

"Can the US gun lobby be made to misfire through social media?"


It got three recommendations. Intrigued, I followed the link to the Guardian:


The discerning reader will notice several things wrong with this 'Strength Through Networking'

Can the US gun lobby be made to misfire through social media?

Three campaigning groups tell SXSW how they’re using social media to take on the NRA and others

(The fact that they chose a music festival in Texas, of all places, speaks volumes...)

Gun control campaigners are making greater use of social media to organise their supporters across the US, in an effort to digitally disrupt better-funded pro-gun lobbying groups like the NRA.

(Wot? Either their founder and sixteenth richest person in the world
isn't coming through for them- or someone is lying...)

Three groups – Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Americans for Responsible Solutions, and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America – came together at the SXSW conference in Austin to discuss their digital strategies.

The first two of those groups may have well-known figureheads – politicians Michael Bloomberg and Gabrielle Giffords respectively – but they are also working hard to spark grassroots online campaigns for supporters to press for changes to state and federal gun laws.

(Only a rude base toter winger would be so churlish as to point out that they are outnumbered
ca. 20:1 by the NRA- and the NRA costs money to join, while the controller groups are free...)

“The problem here is that there are more guns in the United States than there are people. That’s not necessarily a problem in itself, but our laws are letting far too many of those guns fall into the wrong hands,” said Glaze, setting the scene for the groups’ digital efforts...

The eleven people watching that didn't exactly seem fired up with enthusiasm:

"The gun control panel at SXSW"

The prohibitionists should be careful they don't dislocate something patting themselves on the back

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Mon Mar 10, 2014, 03:05 PM (8 replies)

"Shall-issue" is being challenged in Massachusetts

And not a moment too soon, says I:


In Mass., Gun Permit Standards Vary By Location
By Fred Bever March 4, 2014 Updated Mar 04, 2:30 pm

BOSTON — As the Legislature takes up reforms to the state’s gun control laws, policymakers are taking a close look at the authority local police chiefs exercise over gun permits.

While some lawmakers want to expand that authority, courts are raising new legal questions about whether it may be too arbitrary — and even unconstitutional...

Hill challenged the license denial in light of a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, which established an individual right to bear arms in cases of confrontation.

Superior Court Judge Richard Moses relied on state law, though, when he found that the license denial was arbitrary, and ordered the police chief to issue it. Still, Judge Moses also repeatedly referenced the federal Heller decision, and Collins, the counsel for the police chief association, says that may be a signal the issue isn’t decided.


Who Is Armed, and by What Authority? An Examination of the Likely Impact of Massachusetts Firearm Regulations After McDonald and Heller

by Brian Driscoll

Category: Notes, Number 1, Print Edition, Volume 45

Article XVII of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights guarantees a right to keep and bear arms for the common defense. The Supreme Judicial Court (SJC)—Massachusetts’s highest court—has interpreted article XVII as preserving a right to keep and bear arms in connection with service in the militia. Because the SJC’s interpretation of article XVII does not protect an individual right to keep or bear arms, the court has granted the Massachusetts General Court—the state’s legislative body—wide leeway to craft a broad range of regulations governing gun ownership in Massachusetts. In response, the General Court has enacted a comprehensive regulatory scheme for controlling and licensing firearm ownership in the Commonwealth.

Although many citizens have challenged Massachusetts’s gun laws as infringing upon their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, the SJC has consistently upheld the laws because, until recently, the Second Amendment did not apply to the states. The United States Supreme Court’s reticence to incorporate the Second Amendment to apply to the states, coupled with the SJC’s interpretation of article XVII, resulted in the routine failure of challenges to the Massachusetts regulatory scheme. After District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago, however, it appears that “the times they are a changin’.” Because of this new definition of the Second Amendment’s scope of protection, several Massachusetts firearm laws may not survive constitutional challenges in the post-McDonald world. This Note will analyze the impact that these opinions will likely have on the Massachusetts gun regulation landscape. The Note examines a small sampling of laws, including safe-storage requirements, discretionary licensing, and discretionary license restrictions, all of which will almost certainly be subject to constitutional challenges in the near future.

Part II.A of this Note will outline the history of firearm regulation in Massachusetts, beginning with the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. Part II.B will highlight the laws most vulnerable to challenges after McDonald. Although discussed at length in Part II.B, a brief introduction to some of these vulnerable regulations may be useful at this point. Massachusetts has a discretionary licensing system. A licensing authority—usually the chief of police in each municipality—has the authority to exercise his or her discretion and deny an otherwise qualified applicant if the licensing authority believes that the applicant is not “suitable.” A law allowing the discretionary denial of a fundamental right based on undefined notions of suitability, while passing constitutional muster under article XVII, will not likely survive constitutional scrutiny under the Second Amendment following the amendment’s incorporation after McDonald. . .


IMO, the as-current interpretation of Article XVII in Massachusetts violates the Fourteenth
Amendment as well as the Second.

It's always amused me that the same people who defend Massachusetts' "may-issue" gun
laws would have an aneurysm if some authority figure denied a parade or demonstration
permit due to lack of 'suitability'

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Fri Mar 7, 2014, 02:25 PM (54 replies)

Project Morpheus (prototype lunar lander) Free Flight 8 video

The Morpheus vehicles use liquid methane/liquid oxygen propulsion, which
delivers a higher specific impulse and is less toxic than the fuel/oxidizer used in
the Apollo-era Descent Propulsion System

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Thu Mar 6, 2014, 12:08 AM (1 replies)

ACLU: Police Hide Use of Cell Phone Tracker From Courts Because Manufacturer Asked



Police Hide Use of Cell Phone Tracker From Courts Because Manufacturer Asked
By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 9:01am

It appears that at least one police department in Florida has failed to tell judges about its use of a cell phone tracking device because the department got the device on loan and promised the manufacturer to keep it all under wraps. But when police use invasive surveillance equipment to surreptitiously sweep up information about the locations and communications of large numbers of people, court oversight and public debate are essential. The devices, likely made by the Florida-based Harris Corporation, are called “stingrays,” and unfortunately this is not the first time the government has tried to hide their use...

...Also known as “cell site simulators,” stingrays impersonate cell phone towers, prompting phones within range to reveal their precise locations and information about all of the calls and text messages they send and receive. When in use, stingrays sweep up information about innocent people and criminal suspects alike.

The power of stingrays, and the lengths to which police will go to conceal their use, are demonstrated by an ongoing case in Florida, State v. Thomas. As revealed in a recent opinion of a Florida appeals court, Tallahassee police used an unnamed device — almost certainly a stingray — to track a stolen cell phone to a suspect’s apartment. (The case’s association with stingrays was first pointed out by CNET’s Declan McCullagh in January). They then knocked on the door, asked permission to enter and, when the suspect’s girlfriend refused, forced their way inside, conducted a search, and arrested the suspect in his home. Police opted not to get warrants authorizing either their use of the stingray or the apartment search. Incredibly, this was apparently because they had signed a nondisclosure agreement with the company that gave them the device. The police seem to have interpreted the agreement to bar them even from revealing their use of stingrays to judges, who we usually rely on to provide oversight of police investigations.

When the suspect’s lawyer tried to ask police how they tracked the phone to his client’s house, the government refused to answer. A judge eventually forced the government to explain its conduct to the lawyer, but only after closing the courtroom to the public and sealing the transcript of the proceedings so the public and the press could never read it. Only later, when the case was heard on appeal, did the most jaw-dropping fact leak out. As two judges noted during the oral argument, as of 2010 the Tallahassee Police Department had used stingrays a staggering 200 times without ever disclosing their use to a judge to get a warrant.

Per the article, the ACLU is righteously attempting to find out about police use of
this secret surveillance technique

'Stingrays" are also discussed here:



LAPD Spied on 21 Using StingRay Anti-Terrorism Tool
Mimicking a cellphone tower, it bypasses checks and balances
by Jon Campbell Thursday, Jan 24 2013

A secretive cellphone spy device known as StingRay, intended to fight terrorism, was used in far more routine LAPD criminal investigations 21 times in a four-month period during 2012, apparently without the courts' knowledge that the technology probes the lives of non-suspects who happen to be in the same neighborhood as suspected terrorists.

According to records released to the First Amendment Coalition under the California Public Records Act, StingRay, which allows police to track mobile phones in real time, was tapped for more than 13 percent of the 155 "cellular phone investigation cases" that Los Angeles police conducted between June and September last year.

As L.A. Weekly first reported in September, LAPD purchased StingRay technology sometime around 2006 with federal Department of Homeland Security funds. The original DHS grant documents said it was intended for "regional terrorism investigations."...

...But the newly released LAPD records show something markedly different: StingRays are being deployed for burglary, drug and murder investigations.
Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Tue Mar 4, 2014, 01:18 AM (0 replies)

IOW, neoliberalism. Walter Benn Michaels explained it in "Let Them Eat Diversity":


(emphasis added)

Walter Benn Michaels: The differentiation between left and right neoliberalism doesn’t really undermine the way it which it is deeply unified in its commitment to competitive markets and to the state’s role in maintaining competitive markets. For me the distinction is that “left neoliberals” are people who don’t understand themselves as neoliberals. They think that their commitments to anti-racism, to anti-sexism, to anti-homophobia constitute a critique of neoliberalism. But if you look at the history of the idea of neoliberalism you can see fairly quickly that neoliberalism arises as a kind of commitment precisely to those things....

...Stalin famously won the argument but lost the war over whether there could be socialism in one country, but no one has ever been under the impression for more than a millisecond that there could be neoliberalism in only one country. An easy way to look at this would be to say that the conditions of mobility of labor and mobility of capital have since World War II required an extraordinary upsurge in immigration. The foreign born population in the U.S today is something like 38 million people, which is roughly equivalent to the entire population of Poland. This is a function of matching the mobility of capital with the mobility of labor, and when you begin to produce these massive multi-racial or multi-national or as we would call them today multi-cultural workforces, you obviously need technologies to manage these work forces.

In the U.S. this all began in a kind of powerful way with the Immigration Act of 1965, which in effect repudiated the explicit racism of the Immigration Act of the 1924 and replaced it with largely neoliberal criteria. Before, whether you could come to the U.S. was based almost entirely on racial or, to use the then-preferred term, “national” criteria. I believe that, for example, the quota on Indian immigration to the U.S. in 1925 was 100. I don’t know the figure on Indian immigration to the U.S. since 1965 off-hand, but 100 is probably about an hour and a half of that in a given year. The anti-racism that involves is obviously a good thing, but it was enacted above all to admit people who benefited the economy of the U.S. They are often sort of high-end labor, doctors, lawyers, and businessmen of various kinds. The Asian immigration of the 70s and 80s involved a high proportion of people who had upper and upper-middle class status in their countries of origin and who quickly resumed that middle and upper middle class status in the U.S. While at the same time we’ve had this increased immigration from Mexico, people from the lower-end of the economy, filling jobs that otherwise cannot be filled—or at least not filled at the price capital would prefer to pay. So there is a certain sense in which the internationalism intrinsic to the neoliberal process requires a form of anti-racism and indeed neoliberalism has made very good use of the particular form we’ve evolved, multiculturalism, in two ways.

First, there isn’t a single US corporation that doesn’t have an HR office committed to respecting the differences between cultures, to making sure that your culture is respected whether or not your standard of living is. And, second, multiculturalism and diversity more generally are even more effective as a legitimizing tool, because they suggest that the ultimate goal of social justice in a neoliberal economy is not that there should be less difference between the rich and the poor—indeed the rule in neoliberal economies is that the difference between the rich and the poor gets wider rather than shrinks—but that no culture should be treated invidiously and that it’s basically OK if economic differences widen as long as the increasingly successful elites come to look like the increasingly unsuccessful non-elites. So the model of social justice is not that the rich don’t make as much and the poor make more, the model of social justice is that the rich make whatever they make, but an appropriate percentage of them are minorities or women. That’s a long answer to your question, but it is a serious question and the essence of the answer is precisely that internationalization, the new mobility of both capital and labor, has produced a contemporary anti-racism that functions as a legitimization of capital rather than as resistance or even critique.

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Thu Feb 27, 2014, 01:48 AM (2 replies)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Department of Justice launches probe into ATF storefront stings"


Department of Justice launches probe into ATF storefront stings
By John Diedrich and Raquel Rutledge of the Journal Sentinel
Feb. 20, 2014

The U.S. Department of Justice inspector general announced Thursday he has launched an investigation into storefront stings, in the wake of a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation that exposed foul-ups and failures in undercover government operations across the country.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz already was investigating flaws in the ATF's Operation Fearless in Milwaukee as part of a review of reforms enacted following the agency's botched Operation Fast and Furious...

...In a statement Thursday, Horowitz said he has started a separate investigation that will focus just on storefront stings. The announcement comes after the Journal Sentinel investigation in December found problems that were uncovered in Milwaukee had occurred in stings across the country, from Pensacola, Fla., to Portland, Ore.

The news organization's investigation found the ATF used mentally disabled people to promote operations and then arrested them for their work; opened storefronts close to schools and churches, increasing arrest numbers and penalties; and attracted juveniles with free video games and alcohol.

Which were detailed here:


ATF uses rogue tactics in storefront stings across nation

Documents, interviews show agents employed tactics similar to those used in Milwaukee

Matt Groening illustrated the mindset perfectly:

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Wed Feb 26, 2014, 07:49 PM (0 replies)

"(S)cent of hypocrisy"? More like an overwhelming stench:

From their own words:


I shouldn't need to carry a passport to visit Arizona and Alabama (re: Immigration laws)


CreekDog (39,780 posts)
11. No, DL is not enough, my DL was granted without a birth certificate

as was that of many of my friends here in California.

there are still states that don't require birth certificates or proof of citizenship to get a DL.

the Arizona law doesn't count these states' DLs as adequate.

in other words, to avoid being detained, an American citizen needs to carry a Passport and/or Birth Certificate because of the stupidest law in the USA, which Arizona has now.



you grow a little pot in your house, i don't have an issue with that

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Thu Feb 20, 2014, 12:28 AM (1 replies)

Gun Club for Liberals: The Un-NRA


Gun Club for Liberals: The Un-NRA
Feb. 18, 2014

Gun owner and Second Amendment advocate Marlene Hoeber isn't your typical member of the National Rifle Association. In fact, she isn't a member of the NRA at all.

The Oakland, Calif., laboratory equipment mechanic regularly visits firing ranges, where, along with other members of her gun club, she shoots a variety of weapons. "Guns are fun to play with," she says. She even makes her own ammunition.

She has no use, however, for the NRA's conservative political agenda. By her own description, Hoeber is a feisty, liberal, transgender, tattooed, queer, activist feminist.

She belongs instead to another gun advocacy group entirely--The Liberal Gun Club--whose membership ranges, she says, "from socialists, to anarchists who can quote Marx, to Reagan Democrats."

The LGC will even sell you an AR-15 lower receiver:

(now THAT will give the self-appointed zampolits a case of the fantods!)

Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Wed Feb 19, 2014, 06:09 PM (63 replies)

Ninth Circuit strikes California’s restrictive rule against licensed carry of handguns

Source: Washington Post

The Ninth Circuit’s decision in Peruta v. San Diego, released minutes ago, affirms the right of law-abiding citizens to carry handguns for lawful protection in public.

California law has a process for applying for a permit to carry a handgun for protection in public, with requirements for safety training, a background check, and so on. These requirements were not challenged. The statute also requires that the applicant have “good cause,” which was interpreted by San Diego County to mean that the applicant is faced with current specific threats. (Not all California counties have this narrow interpretation.) The Ninth Circuit, in a 2-1 opinion written by Judge O’Scannlain, ruled that Peruta was entitled to Summary Judgement, because the “good cause” provision violates the Second Amendment.

The Court ruled that a government may specify what mode of carrying to allow (open or concealed), but a government may not make it impossible for the vast majority of Californians to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms...

...As Heller had observed, there are many 19th century cases which say that a state may ban concealed carry so long as open carry is still allowed. California might have been able to do the same. But it is unconstitutional to prohibit carrying in every mode: “the Second Amendment does require that the states permit some form of carry for self-defense outside the home.”

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/02/13/ninth-circuit-strikes-californias-restrictive-rule-against-licensed-carry-of-handguns/

The author points out further on in the article that there is now a well-developed "circuit split"
amongst variois US circuit courts. My guess is that this will end up in the Supreme Court
Posted by friendly_iconoclast | Thu Feb 13, 2014, 07:21 PM (6 replies)
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