Tag Archives: Overcriminalization

DA Whitewashes Killing of Lynn Resident By Armed Intruders

After months of pressure, Essex County District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett has completed his investigation into the Sept. 5, 2013 killing of Army Specialist Denis Reynoso at his home in Lynn. Yesterday, he released his finding that police were justified in killing him. His findings could be summed up as, “Sure, he hadn’t committed any crime, and sure, the police came into his home without a warrant, but he was acting all cray-cray, so we’re good.”

DA Blodgett’s elaborate work of speculative fiction provides several specific reasons making it justifiable for armed intruders to have killed Spc. Reynoso in his home.

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Boston PD Suspends ALPR Program After Massive Privacy Violation

Just before Christmas, Muckrock and the ACLU of Massachusetts brought out excellent articles based on a full year of Muckrock’s investigative reporting into Boston PD’s use of automated license plate recognition technology.

ALPR systems automatically photograph and store in a police database the license plates of any car an ALPR-equipped police vehicle passes. The car may be parked or driving. It could be on the Pike, in a driveway, or anywhere a camera can reach. The question was, what does the Boston PD do with the mountain of data once it has it?

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Justice for Army Spc. Denis Reynoso

We like to think that we’re safe in our homes, and that if we need the police, we can call on them to help protect us. That’s what we tell our children – I have two – and I’d like to think it was more consistently the truth than it is.

Today’s story comes from Lynn, MA, which in September saw an Army reservist shot to death in his home by police in front of his five-year-old son.

 

Army Spc. Denis Reynoso

Army Spc. Denis Reynoso

Police were called after Spc. Reynoso yelled at a man, who then drove away. Two police officers arrived at the Reynoso home on Newcastle Street in the King’s Lynne housing complex, and they appear to have entered the home without either a warrant or the permission of the residents, which would clearly violate the Fourth Amendment. The police version of events is that during the ensuing argument, Spc. Reynoso lunged for one of the police officers’ weapon, and fearing for their lives, the police fatally shot him. The family point out that there is no way to confirm that Spc. Reynoso did lunge for an officer’s gun, and no public information as to why he might do so; that he was unarmed, that they shot him anyway, and that they then searched the house for any drugs or contraband that would provide justification for their actions, without a warrant and without finding anything.

The excuse used by the police – that he “lunged” for the gun – is inherently unprovable. It’s such a hoary old chestnut when it comes to defending the indefensible that it has been immortalized in song. Perhaps that’s why they thought of it.

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StopWatchingUs DC rally rocks out: 3,000+ people call for NSA reforms

This Saturday, DC saw something it had never seen before.

A city that treats the superficial hatreds of party politics as its lifeblood, saw thousands of people from across the political spectrum gather to denounce NSA mass spying. We heard, and roared approval for, the words of feminist Naomi Wolf, Dennis Kucinich (Democrat), Justin Amash (Republican), and Gary Johnson (Libertarian). Kymone Freeman spoke movingly about the impact of surveillance on minority communities and the civil rights movement. Whistleblowers Thomas Drake and Russell Tice were there, and Edward Snowden sent a message to be read by leading whistleblower-protecting attorney Jesselynn Radack. Tea Party people up from Richmond, VA, proudly put on Code Pink stickers labeled “Make Out Not War”. The press reported wonderingly that it was not put together “by any of the “usual” well-connected DC organizers.” I should know: I’m proud to say that, in a small way, I was one of them, and this was the first time most of us had done anything like this.

That wasn’t all. Here in Boston, activist Joan Livingston put together a solidarity rally at Park Street Station:

and ACLU organizer Raquel Ronzone arranged for the rally to livestream at the Digital Media Conference in Cambridge.

If you want updates on the StopWatchingUs campaign going forward, text “PRIVACY” to 877877. Stay tuned for the next stage of the campaign, which will be to pass the “USA FREEDOM Act.” Personally, just to hammer home the point, I’d have preferred the “USA FREEDOM Fourth Amendment Restoration – Objective: Undermining Tyranny Act of 2013”, because I too can do acronyms, but such frivolity is apparently frowned upon in the legislature that gave us the Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 in the first place.

UPDATE: Oh yeah, I nearly forgot. I’m the tall guy to the left of Rep. Amash!

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David House lawsuit sheds light on border laptop searches

david house

 

Cambridge resident David House got a nasty shock back in December 2010, when on his way back from vacation in Mexico he landed in Chicago, and found himself in a Homeland Security interrogation room. What was House’s crime? Being involved with the Bradley Manning Support Network. He was generally sympathetic to Wikileaks’ efforts to publicize the war crimes revealed by the Bradley Manning leaks. Or, as the “lookout” alert put it, he was “wanted for questioning re leak of classified material.”

 

python_thoughtcriminal

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Globe reports on Saturday’s NSA/fusion center picnic

Michael Morisy at the Globe reports:

With speeches, flyers, and some family friendly songs, a few dozen protesters joined outside the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC) yesterday to push back against what they said were increasingly invasive government intrusions into individuals’ privacy.

The event was dubbed an Orwell Day protest, after George Orwell’s 1984 (the date was 8/4), a novel about a totalitarian regime that maintains control largely through an aggressive surveillance program.

“I believe in the constitution, I believe in the Fourth Amendment,” said Alex Marthews, founder of Digital Fourth, a non-profit which advocates for strong Fourth Amendment protections and a strong emphasis on privacy. He blasted BRIC as an ineffective institution that wasted time and money investigating peace activists and graffiti artists rather than more serious threats.

“An agency that does no good and wastes your money should be closed,” he said.

Maximum attendance was around 75, which was much larger than the first event – looks like the movement is growing. Here’s full footage of the first hour, featuring great speeches from Steve Revilak of the Mass Pirates and Joan Livingston of Veterans for Peace. Many thanks to the activists from #MassOps and Restore the Fourth Boston who put the event together!

Cambridge debates switching on its surveillance cameras after Marathon attacks

one-nation-under-surveillance

The city of Cambridge, MA is considering whether to switch on its network of surveillance cameras. Councillor Craig Kelley, who chairs the Public Safety Subcommittee [UPDATE: and whom, I should make clear, is skeptical about the merits of surveillance camera systems, scheduled seven public hearings on the newly proposed Security Camera Policy, but like most subcommittee hearings, they were relatively poorly attended]. The City Council voted unanimously on July 2 to ask the Mayor and the City Manager to arrange a better-publicized meeting to discuss the Policy.

ORDERED:
That Her Honor the Mayor and the City Manager be and hereby is requested to arrange a community meeting with other stakeholders to discuss the proposed Security Camera Policy submitted by the Police Department for implementation.

The minutes of the July meeting are here.

This is the history.

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Curious July 4 Twitter threat case leads to house search, charges (Arlington, MA)

Let me tell you about Travis Corcoran.

Corcoran lives in Arlington, Mass., and till July 4 of this year, the self-described “anarcho-capitalist” made his living running comic book store Heavy Ink. He first ran into trouble after the shooting of Congressman Gabby Giffords, when he posted the following:

tjic_gg_post

In response, the police apparently temporarily took Corcoran’s firearms license, and some customers of Heavy Ink organized a boycott.

On July 4, in an apparent response to the heavy security measures proposed for the Esplanade, he made another violently-themed tweet:

corcoran

Unlike with the Long Island case, Corcoran was not simply searching for something that someone malevolent might also search for: anybody could do that. He was fantasizing about violence, but in a way that is not specific to any named individual. So let’s have a look at the law on such threats, and then I’ll let you know what has happened to Corcoran. I’d welcome your thoughts on what should have happened.

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Google The Wrong Stuff, Get Six Agents In Your Home (Nassau County, NY)

Long Island freelance writer Michele Catalano reported two days ago on a deeply disturbing incident where six officers from an undisclosed agency came to her family home:

At about 9:00 am, my husband […] saw three black SUVs in front of our house; two at the curb in front and one pulled up behind my husband’s Jeep in the driveway, as if to block him from leaving. Six gentlemen in casual clothes emerged from the vehicles and spread out as they walked toward the house, two toward the backyard on one side, two on the other side, two toward the front door. […] He could see they all had guns holstered in their waistbands. “Are you [name redacted]?” one asked while glancing at a clipboard. He affirmed that was indeed him, and was asked if they could come in. Sure, he said. They asked if they could search the house, though it turned out to be just a cursory search.

The “gentlemen” pepper her husband with questions about pepper cookers and backpacks; about where he’s from, about his wife, about their parents and their reading habits. They say that “they do this about 100 times a week. And that 99 of those visits turn out to be nothing.”

 

How reassuring.

How reassuring.

It appears that Suffolk County CID had received a tip from “a Bay Shore based computer company” about the Google searches of a former employee, Ms. Catalano’s husband, who had searched while at work for terms including “pressure cooker bombs” and “backpacks” – the former because he was curious about how the Boston Marathon bombing had happened, and the latter because they were in the market for new backpacks.

It’s still unclear exactly what agency the “gentlemen” were from. The FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force are both denying involvement. Nor do we know exactly why such Google searches triggered a full-court press from no fewer than six officers. But there are two important points that arise out of this story.

One is how blunt the tools of Internet surveillance are. Your Google search for “pressure cooker bombs” tells the authorities only that you are interested in pressure cooker bombs at that moment. As part of my research for this article, I just put it into Google myself. It doesn’t tell them why, and by itself is not evidence of any criminal intent. Nor does separately searching on the word “backpacks” help to establish such an intent. If we were still operating in a world where the Fourth Amendment were consistently applied, this evidence alone would not be nearly enough to demonstrate probable cause to a judge that the person in question was engaged in or planning criminal activity. Instead, we’re operating in an environment of high governmental paranoia about people’s search activity, where agencies have to find ways of justifying an over-muscled and over-funded security state.

The second point is that we don’t know whether a warrant was issued, or whether the “gentlemen” felt that one was needed, because Ms. Catalano’s husband did not assert his Fourth Amendment rights (and may in fact have been afraid to do so). He could have refused them entry without a warrant; they may or may not have complied; but he had every right to refuse. It’s just not something many people think of doing, and in consequence law enforcement feels able to intrude on our homes at will. Like the “gentlemen” in Buffy, their success depends on our silence.

Free Methuen teenager Cameron D’Ambrosio

[Welcome to our new contributor, Garret Kirkland of the Defend the Fourth Coalition! – Ed.]

What the hell is going on in Massachusetts?

Nobody needs to be reminded about the Boston Marathon tragedy, and many of you heard about Cameron D’Ambrosio from Methuen, MA, who was taken into police custody in response to a Facebook post. I’m sure many, like myself, read about his case and assumed that they would “catch and release” him and put it out of mind. After all, it’s not really that shocking for an 18-year-old high school kid who aspires to be a hip hop artist to say stupid things.

This was what he wrote:

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