WSJ Reporter: We’ve Confirmed the Worst – US Intel Truly Was Spying on Trump Camp

by Cillian Zeal

 

A Wednesday piece by The New York Times which details the FBI’s investigation into Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign may have revealed more than intended, at least if a Wall Street Journal reporter who has covered the surveillance previously is correct. 

The Journal’s Kimberley Strassel has written about the investigation in the past. In a piece last week, she posited that the FBI may have used a mole in the Trump campaign, particularly given the Department of Justice’s reluctance to turn over information about the informant to congressional investigators.

The Times piece revealed more details about the Trump campaign surveillance operation — called “Crossfire Hurricane” in reference to the Rolling Stones song “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” — and just how extensive it was. While the tenor of the article, which was written by Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman and Nicholas Fandos, is overwhelmingly favorable to the FBI and dismisses any claims that the surveillance was politically motivated ,(“I never saw anything that resembled a witch hunt or suggested that the bureau’s approach to the investigation was politically driven,” one DOJ official is quoted as saying) there were a few things buried deep in there that specifically caught Strassel’s attention.

In a tweetstorm Wednesday evening, Strassel noted key problems in The Times’ narrative, particularly when the story appeared and significant facts that they glossed over. 

Strassel first argued that the article was a calculated leak of sorts in an effort to get out ahead of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and the information that he’s gathering and releasing regarding the FBI’s sources on the Trump investigation. 

1. So a few important points on that new NYT "Hurricane Crossfire" piece. A story that, BTW, all of us following this knew had to be coming. This is DOJ/FBI leakers' attempt to get in front of the facts Nunes is forcing out, to make it not sound so bad. Don't buy it. It's bad.

However, she says it proves what Trump was claiming all along: namely, that his campaign was being spied upon. 

Biggest takeaway: Govt "sources" admit that, indeed, the Obama DOJ and FBI spied on the Trump campaign. Spied. (Tho NYT kindly calls spy an "informant.") NYT slips in confirmation far down in story, and makes it out like it isn't a big deal. It is a very big deal.

— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) May 17, 2018

The story briefly mentions that “one government informant met several times with Mr. Page and Mr. Papadopoulos, current and former officials said. That has become a politically contentious point, with Mr. Trump’s allies questioning whether the FBI was spying on the Trump campaign or trying to entrap campaign officials.”  However, if that informant met several times with two low-level Trump campaign officials, one wonders just what his role — if any — in the Trump campaign might have been. It seems somewhat unlikely that a random individual outside the campaign would have had the opportunity to meet with both George Papadopoulos and Carter Page without some suspicion being aroused if the informant didn’t have extremely close ties to the campaign.


Federal Judge Rules Indiana Seizing Cars With Civil Forfeiture Is Unconstitutional

 

Nick Sibilla , Contributor

 

In a major win for private property rights, a federal judge ruled that Indiana can no longer seize vehicles under its controversial civil forfeiture laws, which allow police to confiscate property without filing criminal charges. Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson ruled that Indiana's laws were unconstitutional because they failed to provide a timely hearing for the property owner to contest the seizure.

The decision comes just days after Hoosier lawmakers held a summer study committee to discuss forfeiture reform, and less than a month after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new policy to expand police seizures nationwide.

The case began last September when an officer with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department pulled over Leroy Washington and found a small amount of cannabis. Police charged Washington with dealing marijuana and seized his car.

But Washington fought back. With help from Jeff Cardella, a criminal defense attorney and law professor at Indiana University, he filed a federal class-action lawsuit last November on behalf of other owners whose cars were held by law enforcement in Indianapolis. Between November 2016 and February 2017, those agencies seized at least 169 vehicles, or 11 cars per week on average. After he filed his lawsuit, Washington was able to recover his car, though he was still able to represent the class of owners. 

The lawsuit claimed that Indiana’s forfeiture laws violated the car owners’ right to due process, as guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. In Indiana, once property is seized, law enforcement can take up to 180 days to file a forfeiture complaint, i.e. a lawsuit to permanently confiscate the seized property. If the owner demands their car back, the deadline drops to 90 days from the date of the demand.

 Even worse, the property owner cannot challenge the seizure during that months-long hold period.  That is because, under state law, seized property is “not subject to replevin,” a process that would allow the owners to regain wrongfully taken property while awaiting trial. In other words, Hoosiers would have to wait up to six months before they could even challenge a seizure in court. That even includes innocent, third-party owners (typically parents and spouses) who did not know or consent to their property being used in any criminal activity. 

As Judge Magnus-Stinson noted, losing one’s car for months on end “could cause significant hardship:”

During those months, if the owner has secured financing to purchase the vehicle, he is still required to make payments on that loan, lest he risk foreclosure and repossession. He is also required, of course, to make other arrangements for his transportation needs, which may include fundamental life activities such as transit to a job or school, visits to health care professionals, and caretaking for children or other family members.

In order to prevent “erroneous deprivation” and to safeguard due process, property owners must be “provided with some sort of mechanism through which to challenge whether continued deprivation is justifiable.” As the U.S. Supreme Court noted almost 25 years ago, “our precedents establish the general rule that individuals must receive notice and an opportunity to be heard before the Government deprives them of property.”

But Indiana’s forfeiture laws ban replevin and do not allow any other “opportunity for interim relief," which raises grave due process concerns. According to Judge Magnus-Stinson, “there is no judicial determination of probable cause for the seizure,” which means that “the only process that an individual receives prior to a forfeiture hearing is a law enforcement officer’s determination that probable cause exists for an arrest.”  That is, by definition, a one-sided affair.

“Allowing for the seizure and retention of vehicles,” she wrote, “without providing an opportunity for an individual to challenge the pre-forfeiture deprivation [is] unconstitutional.”

Article continues on Page 2

OP's Reich adds License Plate Scanner To Tighten Citizen Surveillance

by Jennifer Lynch and Peter Bibring

Law enforcement agencies are increasingly using sophisticated cameras, called "automated license plate readers," or ALPRs, to scan and record the license plates of millions of cars across the country. These cameras, mounted on top of patrol cars and on city streets, can scan up to 1,800 license plate per minute, day or night, allowing one squad car to record more than 14,000 plates during the course of a single shift.

Automated License Plate Recording System

Photographing a single license plate one time on a public city street may not seem problematic, but when the data are put into a database, combined with other scans of that same plate on other city streets, and stored forever, it can become very revealing. Information about your location over time can show not only where you live and work, but your political and religious beliefs, your social and sexual habits, your visits to the doctor, and your associations with others. And according to recent research reported in Nature, it's possible to identify 95% of individuals with as few as four randomly selected geospatial data points (location plus time), making location data the ultimate biometric identifiers.

To better gauge the real threat to privacy posed by ALPRs, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU of Southern California asked the LAPD and LA Sheriff's Department for information on their systems, including their policies on retaining and sharing information and all the license plate data each department collected over the course of a single week in 2012.

After both agencies refused to release most of the records we asked for, we sued. We hope to get access to these data, both to show just how many data the agencies are collecting and to show how revealing they can be.

Automated license plate readers are often touted as an easy way to find stolen cars -- the system checks a scanned plate against a database of stolen or wanted cars and can instantly identify a hit, allowing officers to set up a sting to recover the car and catch the thief. But even when there's no match in the database and no reason to think a car is stolen or involved in a crime, police keep the data.

According to the LA Weekly, the LAPD and LASD together already have collected more than 160 million "data points" (license plates plus time, date, and exact location) in the greater LA area -- that's more than 20 hits for each of the more than 7 million vehicles registered in LA County. That's a ton of data, but it's not all -- law enforcement officers also have access to private databases containing hundreds of millions of plates and their coordinates collected by "repo" men.

Law enforcement agencies claim that ALPR systems are no different from an officer recording license plate, time and location information by hand. They also argue the data don't warrant any privacy protections because we drive our cars around in public. However, as five justices of the Supreme Court recognized last year in U.S. v. Jones, a case involving GPS tracking, the ease of data collection and the low cost of data storage make technological surveillance solutions such as GPS or ALPR very different from techniques used in the past.

Police are open about their desire to record the movements of every car in case it might one day prove valuable. In 2008, LAPD police Chief Charlie Beck (then the agency's chief of detectives) told GovTech magazine that ALPRs have "unlimited potential" as an investigative tool. "It's always going to be great for the black-and-white to be driving down the street and find stolen cars rolling around... But the real value comes from the long-term investigative uses of being able to track vehicles -- where they've been and what they've been doing -- and tie that to crimes that have occurred or that will occur." But amassing data on the movements of law-abiding residents poses a real threat to privacy, while the benefit to public safety is speculative, at best.

In light of privacy concerns, states including Maine, New Jersey, and Virginia have limited the use of ALPRs, and New Hampshire has banned them outright. Even the International Association of Chiefs of Police has issued a report recognizing that "recording driving habits" could raise First Amendment concerns because cameras could record "vehicles parked at addiction-counseling meetings, doctors' offices, health clinics, or even staging areas for political protests."

But even if ALPRs are permitted, there are still common-sense limits that can allow the public safety benefits of ALPRs while preventing the wholesale tracking of every resident's movements. Police can, and should, treat location information from ALPRs like other sensitive information -- they should retain it no longer than necessary to determine if it might be relevant to a crime, and should get a warrant to keep it any longer. They should limit who can access it and who they can share it with. And they should put oversight in place to ensure these limits are followed.

Unfortunately, efforts to impose reasonable limits on ALPR tracking in California have failed so far. Last year, legislation that would have limited private and law enforcement retention of ALPR data to 60 days -- a limit currently in effect for the California Highway Patrol -- and restricted sharing between law enforcement and private companies failed after vigorous opposition from law enforcement. In California, law enforcement agencies remain free to set their own policies on the use and retention of ALPR data, or to have no policy at all.

Some have asked why we would seek public disclosure of the actual license plate data collected by the police -- location-based data that we think is private. But we asked specifically for a narrow slice of data -- just a week's worth -- to demonstrate how invasive the technology is. Having the data will allow us to see how frequently some plates have been scanned; where and when, specifically, the cops are scanning plates; and just how many plates can be collected in a large metropolitan area over the course of a single week. Actual data will reveal whether ALPRs are deployed primarily in particular areas of Los Angeles and whether some communities might, therefore, be much more heavily tracked than others. If these data are too private to give a week's worth to the public to help inform us how the technology is being used, then isn't it too private to let the police amass years' worth of data without a warrant?

After the Boston Marathon bombings, many have argued that the government should take advantage of surveillance technology to collect more data, rather than less. But we should not so readily give up the very freedoms that terrorists seek to destroy. We should recognize just how revealing ALPR data are and not be afraid to push our police and legislators for sensible limits to protect our basic right to privacy.


{Editor Note: Automated License Plate Recorders are merely the precursor ro CCTV which is already in use in many U.S. cities. However, a recent Australian court decision casts doubt as to their real purpose which doesn't appear to be crime.  "A local resident opposed to the introduction of CCTV cameras succesfully proved that public surveillance carried out by his city council not only broke Australia’s privacy laws, but also did nothing to prevent crime – the supposed reason for its installation."}


Daniel Solove, author of Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff Between Privacy and Security, believes these arguments, and many like them, are flawed. They are based on mistaken views about what it means to protect privacy and the costs and benefits of doing so.

Terrorist attacks, while horrific, claim far fewer lives each year than suicide in the U.S. Nearly 30,000 Americans take their own lives each year. According to The Guardian, 3,467 American lives have been lost in terrorist attacks since 1970; 3,003 of those were in 2001.  A version of this article was originally posted here.


The Secret Poceedings of the Kansas Supreme Court...

by Denis Boyles


Locking the courthouse door may seem like a lousy way to insure fair justice for all, but holding secret hearings on one of the state's most controversial issues is exactly what the Kansas Supreme Court is doing.

Most of us don't trust courts that operate in the dark. Americans, observed Justice Hugo Black 60 years ago, have a "historic distrust of secret proceedings, their inherent dangers to freedom, and the universal requirement of our federal and state governments that criminal trials be public."

Here's a short list of places where secret court proceedings are not unknown:

  • North Korea
  • Iran
  • China
  • Cuba
  • Syria
  • Zimbabwe
  • Kansas

All those secretive Syrians and enigmatic North Koreans probably would beg to differ, but, to paraphrase everybody's favorite Sunflower cliché, "what's up with Kansas?" How did it hop onto that short list of kangaroo judiciaries?

Back in June 2007, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri filed charges in the Kansas Supreme Court against former Attorney General and Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline, all part of the ongoing battle by abortion clinics to prevent government enforcement of state laws regarding late-term abortions and child molestation.

Peter Brownlie, Planned Parenthood's CEO, confirmed the filing and that's the last we've heard, because Planned Parenthood requested a secret hearing, and the Kansas Supreme Court gave them one. That meant, according to David Klepper, blogging at the Kansas City Star, "the public couldn't see what the court case involved, couldn't read the filings, couldn't sit in on what surely must have been a fascinating hearing before the Supreme Court."

It's risky business when courts invite ridicule, but at the Kansas Supreme Court, the invitation's a standing one. Because of the eccentricities of state law, none of the supreme court's justices have ever been vetted by elected representatives. As many critics, including KU law professor Stephen J. Ware, have complained, "..there's no confirmation process at all" the governor appoints them and there they sit, sometimes dozing through cases that often seem to have already been decided by some backroom handshake.

Because Kansas has never had a conservative governor, there's not even much political diversity on the court. All the members are in general agreement on the way things ought to be in Kansas in fact, in 2005, they even started passing legislation of their own, deciding to the penny how much the state should spend on educating kids. Most of them have, at one time or other, made clear their impatience with wing-nuts and others who disagree with them.

You'd think conservatives would be pleased with a court that has moved so far back in time that its hearings resemble the Star Chamber trials that ended the reign and the life of Britain's Charles the First back in the 1600s.

But no. this afternoon, Rep. Lance Kinzer's House Judiciary Committee will hold hearings "public's invited, of course"on HB 2825, a crowbar bill that would pry open courtroom doors across the state by limiting the ability of judges to conduct secret trials and hearings or have their pleadings sealed.

The Planned Parenthood v Kline case triggered Kinzer's concern, but, as he wrote in an email, the bill is "more of an open [government] issue than a pro-life issue." In a statement released yesterday, Kinzer wrote, "The public has a fundamental interest in all cases that are submitted to a court for resolution. It is an unfortunate reality today that many of the most important public policy issues facing our State are being decided by courts. As such it is more important than ever that our judicial process is open and accessible."

An open court presided over by justices who have been through a public confirmation process? There's a wild and crazy idea, one that's never been tried in Teheran or in Topeka.


Denis Boyles, comments on the media and the Midwest for National Review Online, also writes the Monday, Monday column for Kansas Liberty. He's the author of Superior, Nebraska, an oddly-titled book mostly about Kansas.