Category Archives: civil liberties

Low Turnout Undercuts Portugal Vote on Abortion

LISBON, Feb. 11 — Portugal voted decisively in a referendum on Sunday to liberalize its restrictive abortion law, but the result was not considered valid because of low voter turnout.

Still, Prime Minister José Sócrates, a Socialist who supported the liberalization, declared victory and said he would ask Parliament, where his party enjoys a comfortable majority, to change the law.

[NYTimes]

Who Watches The Watchers In A Surveillance Society?

CHICAGO – In some cities in Europe and the United States, a person can be videotaped by surveillance cameras hundreds of times a day, and it’s safe to say that most of the time no one is actually watching.

But the advent of “intelligent video” — software that raises the alarm if something on camera appears amiss — means Big Brother will soon be able to keep a more constant watch, a prospect that is sure to heighten privacy concerns.

Combining motion detection technology with the learning capabilities of video game software, these new systems can detect people loitering, walking in circles or leaving a package.

New microphone technology can isolate the sound of a gunshot and direct the attached camera to swivel and zoom in on the source. Sensitivity may reach the point where microphones could pick out the word “explosives” spoken in a crowd.

[Reuters/InformationWeek]

Wash. initiative would require married couples to have kids


OLYMPIA, Wash. – An initiative filed by proponents of same-sex marriage would require heterosexual couples to have kids within three years or else have their marriage annulled.

Initiative 957 was filed by the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance. That group was formed last summer after the state Supreme Court upheld Washington’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Under the initiative, marriage would be limited to men and women who are able to have children. Couples would be required to prove they can have children in order to get a marriage license, and if they did not have children within three years, their marriage would be subject to annulment.

[NWCN.com]

U.S. Set to Begin a Vast Expansion of DNA Sampling

The Justice Department is completing rules to allow the collection of DNA from most people arrested or detained by federal authorities, a vast expansion of DNA gathering that will include hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, by far the largest group affected.

The new forensic DNA sampling was authorized by Congress in a little-noticed amendment to a January 2006 renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, which provides protections and assistance for victims of sexual crimes. The amendment permits DNA collecting from anyone under criminal arrest by federal authorities, and also from illegal immigrants detained by federal agents.

The goal, justice officials said, is to make the practice of DNA sampling as routine as fingerprinting for anyone detained by federal agents, including illegal immigrants. Until now, federal authorities have taken DNA samples only from convicted felons.

[NYTimes]

FBI turns to broad new wiretap method

The FBI appears to have adopted an invasive Internet surveillance technique that collects far more data on innocent Americans than previously has been disclosed.

Instead of recording only what a particular suspect is doing, agents conducting investigations appear to be assembling the activities of thousands of Internet users at a time into massive databases, according to current and former officials. That database can subsequently be queried for names, e-mail addresses or keywords.

Such a technique is broader and potentially more intrusive than the FBI’s Carnivore surveillance system, later renamed DCS1000. It raises concerns similar to those stirred by widespread Internet monitoring that the National Security Agency is said to have done, according to documents that have surfaced in one federal lawsuit, and may stretch the bounds of what’s legally permissible.

[CNET News]

You are now under x-ray surveillance (well, in the UK)

OFFICIALS are bracing themselves for a storm of public outrage over their controversial X-ray cameras scheme.

As part of the most shocking extension of Big Brother powers ever planned here, lenses in lampposts would snap “naked” pictures of passers-by to trap terror suspects.

The proposal is contained in leaked documents drawn up by the Home Office and presented to PM Tony Blair’s working group on Security, Crime and Justice.

[The Sun (UK)]

Wiretapping Program now under Court Supervision

Remember how the Bush administration said they couldn’t use the FISA court for their “Terrorist Surveillance Program” because it was slow and inefficient? That it hampered terrorism investigations? All this despite the fact that through the end of 2004, 18,761 warrants were granted, while just five were rejected. Fewer than 200 requests had to be modified before being accepted, almost all of them in 2003 and 2004. The four known rejected requests were all from 2003, and all four were partially granted after being resubmitted for reconsideration by the government.

Well, apparently they’ve come around. The White House has announced that the FISA court is now overseeing the domestic surveillance program that has been the subject of such criticism. Sudden reinterpretation of the fourth amendment? Fear of Congressional hearings now that the Dems have the power of the subpoena?

Protestors found in DoD Database

A Defense Department database devoted to gathering information on potential threats to military facilities and personnel, known as Talon, had 13,000 entries as of a year ago — including 2,821 reports involving American citizens, according to an internal Pentagon memo to be released today by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Pentagon memo says an examination of the system led to the deletion of 1,131 reports involving Americans, 186 of which dealt with “anti-military protests or demonstrations in the U.S.”

Titled “Review of the TALON Reporting System,” the four-page memo produced in February 2006 summarizes some interim results from an inquiry ordered by then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld after disclosure in December 2005 that the system had collected and circulated data on anti-military protests and other peaceful demonstrations.

via WashingtonPost

Related info:

COINTELPRO

Pentagon admits errors in spying on protesters (NBC)

The Other Big Brother: The Pentagon’s Domestic Spying Program (Newsweek/MSNBC)

FBI Monitored Web Sites for 2004 Protests

Keeping an Eye on Protesters (Salon.com)

Anti-War Protesters Under Pentagon Surveillance Speak Out

Military Expands Intelligence Role inside the U.S.


WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 — The Pentagon has been using a little-known power to obtain banking and credit records of hundreds of Americans and others suspected of terrorism or espionage inside the United States, part of an aggressive expansion by the military into domestic intelligence gathering.

The C.I.A. has also been issuing what are known as national security letters to gain access to financial records from American companies, though it has done so only rarely, intelligence officials say.

The military and the C.I.A. have long been restricted in their domestic intelligence operations, and both are barred from conducting traditional domestic law enforcement work. The C.I.A.’s role within the United States has been largely limited to recruiting people to spy on foreign countries.

via NYTimes