Wireless Carriers Who Aid Police Are Asked for Data

May 3, 2012

The New York Times on May 2, 2012 released the following:

“By ERIC LICHTBLAU

WASHINGTON — A leading House Democrat is demanding information from the country’s biggest cellphone companies about their role in helping local police departments conduct surveillance and tracking of suspects and others in criminal investigations.

Representative Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, the co-chairman of the Congressional Bipartisan Privacy Caucus, said in a letter sent Wednesday to eight major wireless carriers that he was “deeply concerned” that routine tracking of cellphone use by law enforcement officials in many departments “may violate the privacy rights of Americans.”

In his letter, Mr. Markey sought data from the cellphone carriers on the number of requests for help they have received from law enforcement officials in cell tracking and surveillance operations, their policies on whether they require the authorities to secure court warrants, the use of cellphone surveillance in nonemergencies, the fees they charge the police and other information.

His letter was prompted by an April 1 article in The New York Times on the routine use of cellphone surveillance by local police departments, even in nonemergency situations. Mr. Markey’s office provided a copy of his letter to The Times.

The move by Mr. Markey puts the cellphone companies in the middle of a protracted public debate over the balance between civil liberties safeguards and the authorities’ use of surveillance technology. The issue has received renewed public attention recently as a result of a Supreme Court ruling in January finding that police use of a GPS device on a drug suspect’s car without a warrant violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

CTIA, the wireless industry trade association, said it had no comment on the Congressional request.

Ed McFadden, a spokesman for Verizon, one of the companies from which Mr. Markey is seeking information, said in a statement: “We will review the letter and be responsive. In responding to law enforcement requests, Verizon Wireless follows the law.”

An AT&T spokesman, Michael Balmoris, said, “We received the congressman’s letter and will respond accordingly.”

Representative Joe L. Barton, the Texas Republican who is co-chairman of the House privacy caucus with Mr. Markey, did not respond to requests for comment.

The privacy caucus has no formal subpoena power to gather records. But an official with the caucus who spoke on condition of anonymity in discussing internal matters said that private companies had normally complied with requests from the caucus and that Mr. Markey was confident that the cell companies would give him the information he was seeking.

Politicians and lawyers on both sides of the surveillance issue have debated where the line should be drawn between giving the authorities the technological tools they need and protecting the privacy of the public. Mr. Markey is seeking information not only on the legal and policy implications of cellphone surveillance, but also on the financial relationship between police departments and phone carriers — an area that has received little public attention.

The Times article, based on 5,500 pages of documents that the American Civil Liberties Union received from 205 police departments, found that cellphone carriers often charged local police departments anywhere from a few hundred dollars for using a cellphone to track a suspect’s location, up to $2,200 for a full-scale wiretap of a suspect.

The documents showed that police departments routinely used cellphone tracking for both emergency and nonemergency situations, sometimes without getting court warrants. With police policies varying widely, gray areas in the law have given departments wide discretion in determining what types of situations justify phone surveillance and whether court orders are needed. Some departments have even bought their own phone surveillance equipment and bypassed the carriers.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


ACLU: FBI used community outreach, partnership-building programs to collect info on Muslims

December 2, 2011

The Washington Post on December 1, 2011 released the following:

“By Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Heavily blacked-out internal FBI documents released Thursday indicate that the FBI, in some cases between 2007 and 2009, ran background checks on people they encountered at Muslim-related events and recorded personal information such as email addresses, phone numbers, physical descriptions and opinions in reports marked “routine.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, which obtained the documents under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, accused the FBI of misusing its community outreach programs to collect information on people at Muslim-related events that the FBI organized or was invited to attend. Those programs were intended to improve the relationship between Muslims and the FBI.

The bureau said some of the documents the ACLU published were not derived from outreach programs but were from actual criminal investigations in which it was appropriate to include specific details such as a driver’s license number.

The blacked-out parts make it difficult to understand what the reports represent. But the disclosure comes at a time when the FBI has been criticized for some of its other programs, straining the fragile relationship between law enforcement and Muslims who widely believe they are subjected to surveillance and scrutiny because of their religion.

The ACLU said the FBI never told Muslims at outreach events such as job fairs, religious dinners or community meetings that it would record in government files the details about the events or who attended them.

The FBI’s Community Outreach Program predates the terrorist attacks of September 2001 and is designed to improve the public’s trust in the bureau and build partnerships. After the attacks, federal, state and local government officials stepped up this type of outreach to Muslim communities. Agents who attend such official events are instructed to file reports for what the FBI described as “internal oversight purposes.”

Separate from outreach programs, FBI agents who are investigating a person or group may do their own outreach to as part of the investigation, said Jeff Mazanec, deputy assistant director of public affairs, who oversees the official program. But that is kept separate from what a community outreach coordinator does, he said.

For example, the ACLU cited a 2008 report describing an FBI agent in San Francisco attendance at a religious dinner. The agent documented who was sitting at a table, a cellphone number and details about a man the agent obtained from the California State Department of Motor Vehicles. The FBI agent also included details about a California man and a check deposited to a bank, referencing information from the FBI’s internal case files. The names of individuals and other details were censored from the publicly available report for privacy reasons.

Mazanec said the FBI report was written as part of a formal investigation and not as part of the official community outreach program.

A board member at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, Sara Mostafavi, said she was disappointed that the FBI’s San Francisco division filed a report in 2007 that listed the names and organizations of people at a mosque meeting. It included the names of 50 people from 27 different organizations and identified the particular sect of Islam that each of the attendees followed.

“When you enter kind of a relationship with a sense of trust, you’d like to know that your privacy rights aren’t going to get violated,” Mostafavi said. “It’s been difficult for some people to sometimes attend these meetings because they’re afraid of what the repercussions will be.”

Mazanec said the FBI includes such details in its files so that relationships can be maintained when agents leave or retire. “It’s better than a Rolodex,” Mazanec said. He said the FBI does not use outreach programs for terrorism investigations or assessments, and rules against this were sharpened this year.

Since 2001, advocacy and civil liberties groups have raised concerns that Muslim communities are unfairly targeted for counterterrorism purposes because of their religion. An Associated Press investigation into the New York Police Department’s intelligence-gathering tactics in Muslim communities revealed widespread spying programs that documented every aspect of Muslim life in New York. Police infiltrated mosques and student groups and secretly spied on Muslims who were considered partners in the city’s fight against terrorism.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

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Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.