Friday, April 23, 2010

Honoring anniversary of Cesar Chavez's death - and honoring his legacy - with Mexican lunch at Mi Pueblo Food Center.

via tweetie

Posted via web from Doug's posterous

Sunday, April 18, 2010

If the right-wing Washington Times is alarmed at this, we all should be. (HT @dangillmor)


Federal security workers are now free to snoop through more than just your undergarments and luggage at the airport. Thanks to a recent series of federal court decisions, the digital belongings of international fliers are now open for inspection. This includes reading the saved e-mails on your laptop, scanning the address book on your iPhone or BlackBerry and closely scrutinizing your digital vacation snapshots.

Unlike the more common confiscations of dangerous Evian bottles and fingernail clippers, these searches are not being done in the name of safety. The digital seizures instead are part of a disturbing trend of federal agencies using legal gimmicks to sidestep Fourth Amendment constitutional protections. This became clear in an April 8 court ruling that found admissible the evidence obtained by officials who had peeped at a passenger's laptop files at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.

According to court documents, FBI agents had identified an individual suspected of downloading child pornography on an Internet chat room. The G-men, however, did not want to take their evidence before a judge to obtain a search warrant, as the Constitution requires. Instead, they flagged the suspect's passport and asked officials at the Department of Homeland Security to seize and search his computer at the airport - without a warrant. Three incriminating images were found during the examination, but this case is not about whether a particular person is a scumbag. It's about abusing a principle that applies to all Americans.

U.S. District Judge Gray H. Miller found in this case that neither probable cause, justification nor warrant were required to seize and examine the suspect's laptop. Judge Miller, in accord with a 9th Circuit appellate ruling handed down two years ago, explained that "the court finds that reviewing the files of a computer does not rise to the level of invasion of the privacy and dignity of the individual to make the search non-routine."

In other words, simply because a U.S. citizen is returning from a foreign country by airplane, the government thinks it is a "routine" matter to download sensitive business documents, personal correspondence and any other information that might be saved on a laptop or cell phone, regardless of whether there is any reason to suspect the traveler of a crime.

The danger of this chain of reasoning is magnified by the courts' expansive definition of "border," which now includes checkpoints operating up to 100 miles from Canada or Mexico. Those traveling on the highway between Los Angeles and Phoenix, for example, may find themselves stopped by Department of Homeland Security officers who, literally, ask travelers to show their papers. Drug dogs also can be brought in to search vehicles without probable cause.

The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right of Americans to be "secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects" from unreasonable and unwarranted government intrusion. It is obvious that this right is meant to apply equally to papers that happen to be stored in digital form on a personal hard drive. Such protections do not disappear merely because one happens to be at a real - or imaginary - border.

Because the courts have been derelict in their duty to uphold this fundamental right, it is up to Congress to prohibit the thinly veiled attempts to create Constitution-free zones where Americans find their privacy invaded.

Posted via web from Doug's posterous

Police raid student newspaper offices, seize 900 photos | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Police raid offices of JMU’s paper, seize 900 photos

By Mark Bowes
Published: April 17, 2010
Buzz up!

Up to a dozen police officers led by Rockingham County's commonwealth's attorney raided the offices of James Madison University's student-run newspaper yesterday and seized more than 900 photos taken of last weekend's off-campus, violence-marred party.

Commonwealth's Attorney Marsha L. Garst, armed with a search warrant and accompanied by the officers, showed up unannounced about 10:30 a.m., said Katie Thisdell, editor-in-chief of The Breeze.

"She said if you don't release all of them, we are prepared to take everything out of this office -- all the computers, the cameras, documents, everything," Thisdell said last night

Thisdell said she complied after consulting with the newspaper's general manager, a university employee, and allowed police to download the images onto DVDs. She said not all the photos were related to Springfest, an annual party that drew about 8,000 people this year -- not all of them JMU students.

More than 30 people were arrested and 42 injuries were reported when police with riot shields used pepper spray and tear gas to break up last Saturday's party. Property damage was extensive, authorities said.

Thisdell said a member of Garst's office called her Thursday requesting the photos. Thisdell advised that the newspaper's policy was to release only those photos that appeared on its website or were published in the paper.

Garst couldn't be reached for comment last night.

Thisdell said The Breeze has accepted an offer to be legally represented by the Student Press Law Center in Arlington County, a nonprofit organization that defends student journalists' First Amendment rights. The law center yesterday demanded that Rockingham authorities immediately return the "improperly seized" unpublished photos.

Attorney Frank D. LoMonte, the center's executive director, said in a prepared statement that the search likely violated the federal Privacy Protection Act, which makes it unlawful to search newsrooms for unpublished newsgathering materials.

"To intimidate student journalists with a massive show of force and with no time to consult with legal counsel is grossly improper," LoMonte said.

Contact Mark Bowes at (804) 649-6450 or .


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Flag Comment Posted by Robo on April 18, 2010 at 7:43 am

Rockingham Co CA & Police = NAZIS

Simple formula.

Where is the outrage at this

Flag Comment Posted by Will on April 17, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Badger: You shouldn’t blame the RTD for saying the raid occurred yesterday, and claim the reporter was on drugs. . .  That’s exactly what the student editor told reporters and what was reported in every other state newspaper. The search warrant was executed yesterday (Friday) just like it says in the story.

I guess you get your knowledge from some secret Badger Times or something.

“By Jordan Fifer | The Roanoke Times
At least half a dozen police officers and the Rockingham County commonwealth�s attorney raided the offices of James Madison University�s student newspaper Friday, confiscating hundreds of photos of an off-campus riot last weekend, the paper�s editor said.“

And Badger, the First Amendment might be an issue. More germane, if you’d read to the end of the story, is the Privacy Protection Act, a specific federal law to protect newsrooms from this sort of blanket fishing expedition to cease all their equipment, etc.—which is exactly what the CA threatened to do. If this act is in play, then the evidence she has ceased won’t be able to be used in a court of law. Dumb.

Flag Comment Posted by badger on April 17, 2010 at 10:44 pm

Uh, folks…This happened like 3-4 days ago! And the Times-Dispatch is just posting it as news today? The search warrant was not executed “yesterday” as Mark Bowes reports. (He needs to lay off the sleeping pills).

Violation of the First Amendment? Oh lady, you’re way off. Well there’s much that this pitiful RT-D version doesn’t give you, so maybe you truly don’t know.
#1. The Breeze refused to let CA Garst look at the photos, when Garst first asked.
#2. The photos are evidence in a criminal investigation.
#3. Many of the photos are of last weekend’s riot, where JMU students—and non-JMU students—pelted Harrisonburg police officers (and others) with rocks, bottles & cans.
#4. The ER there was overflowing all day & all night from inuries. One guy had to be flown to UVA hospital he was hurt so bad (and is why 8 people were charged with Malicious Wounding by Mob).

So this is a simple ‘free speech issue’, huh? Hey I got a tip—Know what actually happened before you go off on some high-school civics class tangent!!

Flag Comment Posted by Will on April 17, 2010 at 10:25 pm

The Roberts Court, Inc., has already decided that students don’t have rights in Morse v. Frederick. What’s the big deal?

Flag Comment Posted by ramgrl on April 17, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Could there BE a clearer case of first amendment rights violation? WTF was the CA thinking here? And going in herself with the police? Thats a CLEAR breech of separation between law enforcement and the prosecution. Theres no way she can be involved in the hearing for this case because it would be a huge conflict of interest. She just put herself on the same level as the officers there, as a witness. What a moron! Did she completely miss the first year of law school?? I agree with the last post here. What IS this state coming to with the violations of Constitutional rights every five seconds. It’s embarassing!

Flag Comment Posted by gnomic on April 17, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Is the the County Attorney incompetent and ignorant of the law, or does he think that he has some special exemption? His job is to uphold the law, not violate it. I suspect this is a result of the culture of the current state leadership that believes that it can ignore federal laws and the US constitution because they don’t agree that all citizens are created equal and that the Commonwealth of Virgina is subject to federal laws. I wonder what rights or laws they will decide that to violate next. And the word you are looking for is “facist.“ That’s what you call a state that superceeds your rights at a whim. Jefferson would be so ashamed of the leaders today.

Flag Comment Posted by J-Reb on April 17, 2010 at 3:52 am

This is America.  The Police can do whatever they want.

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This is a very serious breach of First Amendment principles. The government cannot raid a newsroom unless they've exhausted all other reasonable means to get what they are looking for. Please help spread the word about this serious incident and consider donating ( to the Student Press Law Center (

Posted via web from Doug's posterous