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U.S. Marshals Seize Cops’ Spying Records to Keep Them From the ACLU (wired.com)
346 points by pavel_lishin on June 4, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 102 comments

Vote with your dollars, it's likely the most important vote you've got.

The ACLU single donation page is here: https://www.aclu.org/secure/make-gift-aclu-3?s_src=UNS140001...

The ACLU membership page is here: https://www.aclu.org/secure/our-civil-liberties-are-under-at...

I have been an ACLU member for years, but am otherwise unaffiliated. Crap like this is why I'm a member. They are on the front lines.

Kinda unrelated, but I have come across this "vote with your dollars" thing way too many times, always by USians. I ask this out of genuine curiosity - no criticism intended:

In a democracy, the most disproportionate power a regular citizen has is the vote. Bill Gates (as an example) has exactly one, and so do you.

Dollars, on the other hand - Bill G has quite a few orders of magnitude more than you. So many infact, that your "dollar votes" end up being a rounding error either way - with him or against him.

You cannot hope AT ALL to win based on "voting with your dollars". But voting with your votes, you just may stand a chance. What the US govt is doing, NSA is doing - in the end it will have to be fixed in Congress, not in Courts. Not by ACLU. But by people voting with their votes. Even congressmen are used to "vote with dollars", and of course the supreme court has now made it official that "dollars are free speech". All of that can be reverted with "vote with votes" only - not with dollars.

Thats my belief, not being a USian. I am trying to understand why "vote with your dollars" seems so popular and - well - believable a concept in the US? Isn't "voting with your dollars" a clear rejection of democratic power?

It's not like our votes really count either. It's far more of a rounding error than your money.

The electorate is full of easily-swayed morons, and they're the ones who get a voice, not us. If you want to affect policy, then you need to sway them harder than your opponents.

The last Presidential election involved a bit over $2 billion in campaign spending. That's about $20 for each person who voted in the election. If you can spend more than $20, then you can get a greater voice through money than through voting. Congressional races involve less money and are thus even more easily affected.

It's not a great way to run things, but there's not much use in wishing they were different.

Edit: I also want to point out that voting with your money allows you to express a more precise position. In voting directly, you have few options. For the last Presidential election, the only sentiments you could really express with your vote were, "I favor half-assed health care reform and an extreme overemphasis on combating terrorism in both domestic and foreign policy", "I favor a slightly different half-assed health care reform and an extreme overemphasis on combating terrorism in both domestic and foreign policy", "I am a complete nutcase", or "I hate them all". There is rarely any vote that corresponds to the sort of thing you push for by donating to the ACLU.

"It's far more of a rounding error than your money."

For Bill Gates vs. a median networth individual, they actually seem to wind up fairly comparable on presidential elections, ignoring the electoral college. The more local the election, the more sway your individual vote has, of course (and often the more influence the decisions have on your life, day-to-day).

How do you arrive at "wind up fairly comparable"? If you merely contributed $40 in the last Presidential election, your money counted twice as much as your vote, relatively speaking.

If you're looking at actual donations versus possible donations, the point is what you could do with your money, not what the average person actually does.

The original statement about rounding errors, which you compared votes to, was:

'Dollars, on the other hand - Bill G has quite a few orders of magnitude more than you. So many infact, that your "dollar votes" end up being a rounding error either way - with him or against him.'

Dollars Bill Gates has (or rather, net worth) divided by the net worth of the median individual is not terribly far from the voting population over one.

This is not a terribly meaningful comparison, I just thought it interesting that they wound up in the same ballpark.

The important point was that your vote matters a ton more on local things than things further away, though your dollar can go further there as well to be sure.

Got it. That is an interesting comparison (but as you say, not necessarily very meaningful).

It would be interesting to compare the political donations of wealthy people like Gates with those from regular folk. Does it scale with net worth? Do rich people give more or less, relative to what they have, to political causes?

You're right that your vote matters more locally, but so does your money, so I think the potential difference in influence remains similar.

I'd weakly expect the wealthy to donate less, on average, relative to their disposable income. Whether that winds up more or less relative to their income depends on a host of factors... There's also liquidity to factor in... and of course Bill Gates can probably manage a fair amount of influence before donating anything (I'm not sure whether that's gone up or down since he moved from MS to charity).

"You're right that your vote matters more locally, but so does your money, so I think the potential difference in influence remains similar."

Probably depends who lives near you, but yeah.

There's another interesting factor at play, which is that there can be unintended effects from wealthy people spending lots of money on politics, because you can't just directly buy votes.

For example, if Bill Gates decided to put $5 billion behind electing his candidate of choice in the next Presidential election, it would probably backfire spectacularly. Just looking at the numbers, he ought to be able to determine the election on his lonesome, since money talks and he'll outspend the other guy by a hefty margin. But the idea that a rich guy is effectively trying to buy the election would mobilize people to fight against it on a huge scale. You can see this at work in a smaller scale with the infamous Koch brothers, and the smaller scale backlash their spending has generated from people who oppose their views.

So not only do you have to look at how much people can and do spend, but also how effective that spending is. The marginal utility of political spending probably has a weird curve, and almost certainly can become negative once you reach a certain level.

Voting with your vote, in the US, means choosing between the Democratic and Republican wings of the Capitalist Party.

If either party was a proper "Capitalist Party" we would be much better off. I think it would be harmful if people said "capitalism doesn't work, what alternatives are there?" and switched to some system where the oligarchy is just as well off but everyone else has less freedom with their money.

> In a democracy, the most disproportionate power a regular citizen has is the vote

Actually, I would probably rank the power to work to convince others to vote one way or the other as more powerful, because it can have a lot more effect than one vote.

Naturally, this is also more difficult and time consuming than going out and voting.

People are going to vote anyway, so "voting with dollars" is really kind of a bonus option. And maybe to some degree it expresses the de facto effect of dollars on many government officials and government processes. So there's a need to have some money to counterbalance that, and while my $5 won't do much, it's a cumulative result that they're after.

At the same time, it's just a simple statement that wraps a "please support non-government groups that are fighting to change government" message. And there's no need to fight Bill Gates because he's not part of the situation at hand.

> People are going to vote anyway

Post-WWII in the US, in Presidential general elections (generally, the highest turnout elections), the highest turnout was 62.8% in 1960, the lowest 49.0% in 1996, and most elections have been in the mid-50%s. So, "people are going to vote anyway" seems pretty far from true.

Yeah, that's kind of the throwaway part. I should have said, "Voting already exists as an option". I'd be interested to know what percentage of ACLU members vote, though.

This true, but in context, I read OP's statement as meaning:

> People WHO DONATE MONEY are going to vote anyway

Their argument is silly otherwise.

You need to know that the ACLU can raise a lot of hell with a modest amount of money. "Vote with your money" means different things depending on the organization involved. The ACLU does not need more money than the government to win significant lawsuits.

Nevertheless, it does cost money, and not a pittance. Particularly since selecting the best cases usually means working pro bono. And teams of attorneys ain't cheap, and there's so much messed up in the United States that you've got to be able to field a bunch of those teams.

The U.S., by many measures, is not a democracy, but more closely operates as an oligarchy [1].

If Bill Gates donates $100 million to a set of Congressional candidates who then use that money to run campaigns, the additional money will have a noticeable impact in the result. Assuming nobody is on the other side making even larger donations, a higher percentage of Bill Gates' preferred candidates will get elected than would have otherwise.

If it was just Bill Gates doing this, it probably wouldn't be that big of a deal. But since the economic and political interests of a large percentage of America's elite are highly correlated, you end up with a large amount of money directed to candidates who support policies that benefit those elites.

In theory, your critique is correct. If every non-elite voted against the elites, all of this money would be wasted. But in practice a lot of that money gets used to convince the non-elites that their own interests will be served by the same candidates who are receiving the money from the elites. It would be called propaganda if it was done by the government, but since it's done by private economic entities it's just considered a form of marketing.

The average American voter is not very informed beyond a few specific issues (and often not even that). The result is that they can be easily overwhelmed with information related to issues they are unfamiliar with. Political campaigns in the U.S. like to portray these issues in dire terms. "My opponnent is soft on crime! Why? Because he voted for this obscure bill, HR834109241027308, that you've never heard of and couldn't interpret if you tried!" The implication is straighforward, but never directly said: "You and your family will be safer by choosing me!"

You don't have time to research all of these claims and debunk them, even if you have a good intuition for which ones are bogus and which are reasonable. The fact that both major parties bullshit equally means that even if you did, you'd still be trying to pick the most truthful liar out of the group. Some people recognize this and give up on the process entirely. A lot of money is spent trying to convince these people that this candidate is different and is worth your money, vote, and trust.

So you are correct that trying to out-money the monied interests is not a very promising strategy for political reform in the U.S. But simply trying to out-number them won't work since the average vote is so uninformed, subject to pathos, and fundamentally cheap. Over a large population, the average vote is all that matters. For this reason, small local elections in the U.S. tend to function in a much more democratic and intelligent fashion than state or national elections. The issues are less numerous, the stakes are lower (implying lower ROI for political "investors"), and the voters are more informed about what is happening in their own area.

Democracy, as discovered by the Greeks, is a fantastic political system for local governance. But it doesn't scale. From a certain perspective, it is impressive that the U.S. has scaled it as far as it has, given such a numerous, heterogeneous, and geographically distributed population.

[1] http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746

Thank you, that was quite cogently expressed.

I can't help but wonder if "voting with your dollars" is another one of those things which has been drilled into the citizenry with - as you put it - "...that money gets used to convince the non-elites that their own interests will be served by the same candidates who are receiving the money from the elites." Its an "arms race" that the "common people" CANNOT win. But getting them bogged down in it makes for a very calm populace of consumers - they have the power of the dollar, after all.

Thats the fundamental way to steal a democracy, isn't it? Convince the voters that money is matters more, and is a more effective way for governance decision-making. Heck, even get the Supreme Court to declare that money is protected political speech!^1 Thats seems to be the foundation from where the democratic rot builds itself.

1) When I first came across that in US news, I actually thought it was some kind of Onion-esqe satire.

The ACLU can focus a small amount of donor money like a political laser and make real progress on the issues its donors care about. Its less like "voting" with your money and more like raising your own taxes a smidge to get the results you want.

The ACLU needs a "let me donate but don't send me a pound of mail each year" membership option.

Amen to that. That's a big issue with most charities, actually. I wonder how the cost/benefit works out, though? I'm guessing it's probably still worth it to send the mail.

I work at a 501(c)(3), and direct mail is absolutely worthwhile. Maybe 1.5-3% of recipients of a prospecting piece actually respond, and they probably won't make up for the cost of the mailing. However, those respondents then get more mailings specifically for current donors and those mailings make money.

Out of that group, donors are checked against databases of known giving history and net worth. These databases aren't always accurate or comprehensive, but it helps fundraisers to ID people who might be able to give more--sometimes a lot more.

When high-value prospects are IDed, they usually get assigned to a major gift officer who starts building a personal relationship to solicit very large gifts. This is where the charity makes the majority of its revenue. I usually see 95% of revenue come from the top 5% of donors, largely individuals.

If you're uninterested in receiving lots of mail, most charities will try to accommodate that request. However, resources are limited and dealing with the problems of $XX level donors often takes second place to the problems of $XXX,XXX level donors. I've seen stacks of returned direct mail several feet high from people who moved, died, wanted no more mailings, you name it. It was always on the to-do list to remove those names, but never at the top of the to-do list.

As someone who would regularly give to the ACLU - IF THEY DIDN'T SPAM ME - I can guarantee they are loosing money (and supporters) because of their policy.

In particular, I contacted them asking if contributors were put on mailing lists. I was told that regular membership contributors were added to several mailing lists, but that one-off contributors were only sent a small amount of ACLU generated mail, and if I put a note on my donation to the effect of "do not send ACLU mail" then I wouldn't even get that much. I set up my bank's auto-bill system to send them a $100 monthly check (i.e. regular "one-off" contributions) and had "DO NOT SEND ACLU MAIL" in three different locations on the check and that phrase was the only thing in all caps on the check. Within two weeks of the check being sent I had started getting non-ACLU mail that had a typo from that check. I immediately cancelled my bank's auto-bill to them. That was more than 3 years ago. So their spam has cost them at least $3,600 from me alone.

This comment is an excellent illustration of why privacy is so important. Your goals are noble (I hope) but the methods employed are absolutely terrible.

"databases of known giving history", "databases of net worth"...

This is precisely why I only donate to charities and causes anonymously. It's sort of stunning that ACLU, the champion of privacy, does not offer this option.

At this point, it's almost certain that the benefits outweigh the costs, considering that non-profits still compete, and every non-profit I've heard of sends tons of mail.

At this point, it's almost certain that the PERCEIVED benefits outweigh the PERCEIVED costs, considering that non-profits still send tons of mail.

There is little doubt that there are benefits to their current model. tvanantwerp covered some of those benefits.

But there are costs and benefits that don't appear to be included in their current calculations. If anybody doubted the difference that lots of little contributions can make need only look at successful crowd-sourcing systems and campaigns.

I believe that most non-profits have been told to go after the big fish donators and if they have to destroy all the little fish in the process, "oh, well". My point, and based on the other comments, I'm not alone, is that the little fishes' contributions may add up and be worth more than the big fishes with a lower overall cost (because it costs to produce and distribute those tons of mail).

The issue is that, from the charity's standpoint, your most likely donors are those who have already donated. It would be nice if you could volunteer a higher donation in exchange for a promise not to be mailed / emailed for a year or two (or ever). I donate to a public radio station on a monthly basis, and some months I feel like they're putting that entire donation into efforts to market to me.

I ran into one of the higher-ups for the ACLU at Ashby BART (executive director or something?). I mentioned this problem and asked how I could donate without receiving any marketing materials what so ever. He gave me his card and told me to email him personally.

I don't think this is one of their priorities.

"Recently, the Tallahassee police department revealed it had used stingrays at least 200 times since 2010 without telling any judge because the device’s manufacturer made the police department sign a non-disclosure agreement that police claim prevented them from disclosing use of the device to the courts."

So just by signing an NDA, I'm not obligated to disclose information to the court?

That one bothers me too. Just like I can't sign away my obligation not to commit a crime, they can't sign away their obligation to uphold the law.

Imagine if this worked for handgun manufacturers. "I'm sorry, but I can't say if I shot him or not; the use of my gun is covered by an NDA with the manufacturer."

A better analogy would be traces. They're almost never even theoretically useful, because they terminate with the being gun stolen or sold in a way that can't be traced, but they start with asking the manufacturer which distributor bought the gun, which leads to the gun store, where the ATF Form 4473 tells you who bought it at the retail level.

If manufacturers forced distributors and gun stores to sign NDAs ... well, we know how that vs. the clear laws and regulations on the books would resolve.

Somehow these other Constitutionally enumerated rights seem to be getting about as much respect as the 2nd Amendment does....

That's something straight out of Robocop, I shudder to see where we're heading.

You actually are, and in fact, the convictions have started to be reversed as a result of this ...

Good thing an NDA caused rapists/etc to go free!

> Good thing an NDA caused rapists/etc to go free!

No, good thing illegal behaviour by police departments was identified and rightly led to overturning the convictions resulting from that behaviour.

Whether the perps were murderers, pot smokers or speeders (or innocents...) does not matter.

> Whether the perps were murderers, pot smokers or speeders (or innocents...) does not matter.

You might not agree if you were the victim or the victim's friends/family. The evidence might have been illegally gathered, but it was also pretty damming.

I absolutely agree with what the ACLU is doing, but there is still a victim and they will likely never see justice. It's a real failing of the US justice system, and not something I'm personally comfortable in celebrating.

> The evidence might have been illegally gathered, but it was also pretty damming.

I know that this is hard to stomach, especially for the victims. But as a society we've determined that convictions based on illegal evidence are a bigger problem than the crimes they intend to punish. And by and large that is a good thing, even if in individual cases it hurts like hell.

The alternative, a society where police can commit crimes in order to catch criminals is much worse than a society where the police is still kept in check by the law. In a really just society these officers would be charged.

" The alternative, a society where police can commit crimes in order to catch criminals is much worse than a society where the police is still kept in check by the law. In a really just society these officers would be charged."

I don't disagree, but there are alternatives to the exclusionary rule, like massive civil liability (or even criminal liability for the police) instead of the current qualified immunity regime.

If a group of police officers illegally obtains evidence, and goes bankrupt/gets foreclosed on/etc for doing it, they are unlikely to do this again.

In fact, i'd venture that qualified immunity has done more than anything else to foster this culture of misconduct that the exclusionary rule was meant to prevent. The likelihood of criminal charges against police in these cases was always low.

I believe at this point, time has shown that the exclusionary rule is not really an effective deterrent to police misconduct, whereas at least int he US, real money might be.

(sad, but true).

As a complete aside, "we as a society" did not decide anything. The exclusionary rule was judicially created, and very very recent (late 1900's). Prior to that, illegal evidence was as good as anything else in the US.

I woudl be very upset if someone who hurt my ${loved one} went free because of the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree doctrine. However, I like to believe that I'd be directing my anger at the organization that decided to use bad techniques to get evidence, rather than at the law that protects all of us from such behavior.

Well put the cops and prosecutors in jail - they are the reason the perps go free.

That doesn't help the victim.

I expect a significant number of people would characterize what the police did as bending the rules a little to catch a rapist on the loose. Many -- including me! aren't going to agree with that, but it is a legitimate point of view, and it does explain why police are very rarely sanctioned for actions like this.

Legitimate implies legal, and legal it is not. It's a fine line between bending the rules an breaking the rules and any lawyer worth their salt will get their client off the hook if the police are found to be bending the rules.

If there is one thing more dangerous than criminals then it is authorities operating without any checks on their power.

So if you want criminals to be punished for their deeds you should be very much against police bending the rules to catch them.

> That doesn't help the victim.

The point of putting people in prison isn't supposed to be to help the victim, either. The victim is kind of irrelevant.

Ideally they would capture a rapist without breaking the law.

> Good thing an NDA caused rapists/etc to go free!

No, police misconduct did, and that's how the justice system needs to work. If they face no consequences for violating the law, they'll continue to do so.

I think you misunderstood my comment (which was essentially "good thing the police decided to commit clear misconduct by signing an NDA and then committing brady violations") But in any case, the justice system didn't work this way for a long time, and was effective. The exclusionary rule only came into play in 1914 in any real way.

It also doesn't work this way in other countries and is effective there too.

The cops, in the end, aren't punished because someone went free. We are.

I'd posit that large amounts of civil liability for the cops who do this would be a much better deterrent than letting a criminal that isn't them, go free.

(the other option, of criminally charging cops, is just never going to happen)

The NDA did not cause the rapists to go free. The fact the police broke the law did that. they should not have done it.

this makes me sick, and in any other context I can't imagine how it would stand up.

> In the Sarasota case, the U.S. Marshals Service claimed it owned the records Sarasota police offered to the ACLU because it had deputized the detective in the case, making all documentation in the case federal property.

This is pretty outrageous.

Brazen, really. They're not even trying anymore.

Usually a sign of third world government/justice system. In such countries they don't have to bother to hide their crimes because they know they have all the power and no one will do anything to them. Unfortunately many in the US law enforcement have started feeling like that, because in truth, usually nothing happens to them when committing crimes either.

Indeed. Usually the best accountability mechanism is internal to the organization (or the person), but George W Bush demonstrated unequivocally that if you absolutely refuse to hold yourself accountable, there's literally nothing anyone outside your organization can do. It was like discovering a superpower.

Loyalty is everything, principle nothing. So vilify whistleblowers, hold the line against criticism. The important psychology here when behaving unethically and illegally on behalf of your org is to remember that the org is defined to be good and if you criticize it, you will be defined to be bad and moreover, there will be real-life consequences on the order of lost career, imprisonment, or death. Another important feature these days is the use of secret interpretations of law that justify breaking it, providing a soothing balm to those who's consciences need it.

Did you mean Barack Obama? Or Bill Clinton? Or Ronald Reagan? Or Richard Nixon? Or Lyndon Johnson? Or Franklin Roosevelt?

They all abused their power, often to extremes.

The illegal war Kennedy and Johnson put us into in Vietnam was drastically worse than Iraq.

The only reason spy agencies under Nixon didn't do what they have under Bush and Obama, is they lacked the technology to pull it off. That's the sole reason it didn't happen sooner.

J Edgar Hoover was director of the FBI for 48 years, under numerous Presidents, all of which were complicit in the abuses that took place. They knew what he was and didn't stop him. Hoover would probably be doing worse today than anything the NSA is doing, he lacked the technology, not the willingness to violate the Constitution.

If FDR was willing to intern Japanese Americans during WW2, what kind of other vile police state measures do you think he would have happily gone along with had the technology existed to eg spy on every single American in 1941? He absolutely would have brushed the Constitution aside, all he lacked was the technology.

None of this mess began with Bush. And the Bush mentality is the opposite of unique among Presidents. He's just one of many involved over decades of abuses leading up to this point.

I've heard this argument before. But Bush really was different. Nixon resigned. Clinton was impeached (and eventually apologized) for lying about Lewinski. Kennedy never had a chance to answer for Vietnam, nor FDR for internment.

I don't know about Hoover, but my sense was that the presidents under which he worked could not have removed him even if they wanted to.

Bush was innovative not because he lied, or cheated, or did vile things as President, but because he chose to believe that he was right, no matter what anyone said, or the reasons they gave, or the arguments they made. He simply refused to accept facts that interfered with his own viewpoint, and incredibly this worked. He hacked a system that relies on powerful wrong-doers to cooperate with the prosecution to be effective. It's a kind of extra-legal 5th amendment right reserved for captains of industry and state.

As for Obama, I'd argue that as our first black President he's been swept up by the momentum of his predecessor, and has had to take very careful steps lest he lose the support of the Bush-era bureaucrats. Is James Clapper above executing an American coup? Clearly not, and Obama knows it. In essence, Bush created a 21st century, high-tech, distributed Hoover that's impossible to kill or even moderate, especially by a weak president.

Heaven help us all.


> the device’s manufacturer made the police department sign a non-disclosure agreement that police claim prevented them from disclosing use of the device to the courts.

I don't know where to begin with this, other than to say it's quite clear that this police department is not interested in participating in the justice system.

The notion of "ownership" of public records is a bit tenuous to begin with. You can own the paper (except they obviously don't, and you can make a copy on your own paper), or you can own a copyright on particular documents (except that US government documents, including municipalities, are public domain).

Really they're asserting some quasi-classification right to prevent a record's release because they "deputized" the author, but it's pretty unclear under what actual statutory authority they're operating.

17 U.S.C. § 105 only bars the Federal government from holding copyrights on works it created. Case law, however, holds that states and local governments may retain copyright.

So what. Release it. I'll take a copyright violation.

Given we're talking about the (ab)use of this stingray surveillance device, who's (assumed) widespread use the feds don't want the average citizen to know about, I suggest they would come down on you with enormous damages for that copyright violation.

You seem to think I disagree with you. I'm just correcting misinformation.

In most cases, state and municipal works are copyright protected, unless they specifically waive their rights. I believe that California does, for example.

Most states do have freedom of information laws for access to records, but there are broad exemptions for law enforcement and other public safety purposes.

I guess if pushed hard enough they will just criminalize the information or such, in other words they will hold it as it cannot have rights to be violated. If all else fails, national security it?

Yep, not an abuse of power at all. Seizing all the evidence to interfere with a legal proceeding. This seems perfectly legit to me! /s

I'd hope that the U.S. Marshals [as a service] would have people fired for this and a Judge would find whoever ordered this to be in contempt. However, I really expect this just to be ignored beyond the ACLU/News reporting on it. :/

At the very least if this does go to court, the judge is very likely to call BS.

Depends entirely on the judge whose bench it ends up before.

Defending against this would be a perfect use of Florida State Guard, as such groups aren't controlled by the federal government. Unfortunately as of 1947, Florida now only has the Florida National Guard which is under federal control. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_State_Guard

For all the talk of 2nd Amendment (guns rights) advocates, I think they miss the obvious use cases: well organized (and locally controlled) militias, such as the Florida State Guard.

> For all the talk of 2nd Amendment (guns rights) advocates, I think they miss the obvious use cases: well organized (and locally controlled) militias, such as the Florida State Guard.

That's because Florida outlawed them[1], along with many other states.

[1] - http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?mode=View%20St...

Wouldn't outlawing militias be unconstitutional under the second amendment?

Right now the Supremes are refusing to admit that it means anything besides having a right to have a gun in your home for self-defense. The "and bear" arms minor detail just might as well not exist.

Militias, which the bare wording of that Florida law wouldn't quite seem to outlaw (presumptively assume it was part of the general post-Reconstruction effort to keep freedmen "in their place"; with the exception of efforts to suppress dueling American gun control got it's start in that), aren't even operationally part of the 2nd Amendment except as a justification for the RKBA part, and that was basically a sop thrown at the Founders who disliked standing armies but couldn't get far with veterans like Washington pointing out the limits of militias.

I can go a lot further in this analysis if you wish, but one of the foundational principles is above, a tension between the militias (safe but less effective), "regulars" (less safe, more effective), and "select militias" (utterly dangerous and not effective except in internal oppression).

Our Founders did not like the idea of select militias at all, the phrase had connotations around the strength of e.g. Communist ... and surprise, surprise, our modern, paramilitary police are very close to that definition. With outsiders like the Federal Marshalls when they pull these sorts of stunts (see also Ruby Ridge) pretty much fitting it to a T.

The other thing to initially look at is the Constitution's provisions for militias. Outlawing them at the state level would negate the rights and duties of the Congress about them ... something in part sidestepped with the creation of the National Guard, which until Heller made the point moot our betters insisted were the militia.

Only if the federal government outlawed them. The states have a right to maintain a militia, but not an obligation.

Your citation does not seem prevent militias like the Florida State Guard. The Florida State Guard would fall under the "regularly organized land and naval militia of this state" exemption.

Serious question. At what point do you think the public truly hits a tipping point and lashes back at the government? Or are we just going to sit unorganized and go back to our facebook and nightly entertainment. Personally I think it will have to be an economy downturn worse than the housing bubble to get the public to organize.

Like how has this news affected your personal life at all. Did this action diminish your capability to have a job of your choosing? Did it prevent you from raising children? Did it prevent you from doing something you love? How different is your life now? Because the voting public isn't going to care unless their ability to live their life has been affected, and it hasn't.

Right around the time it's too late.

People in the future are going to be so confused. "If the Americans were the first to systematically limit government power in a written constitution, why did they just start ignoring it all of a sudden?"

It wasn't "all of a sudden". We've been doing it--sometimes for good reasons, often times bad--since the country's inception.

"John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!" is two hundred years old.

Andrew Jackson's famous quote is actually part of the checks and balances in the system, a guard against an out of control Federal Court system, even if this example is awful.

The check against that is the ability of the Congress to impeach and convict a President.

It should also be noted the Congress can remove anything they want from the remit of the Supreme Court, and have done this more than a few times in the past (generally or all also bad) and some in recent times.

Of the three branches, our Founders were supremely suspicious of the courts, if you'll pardon the pun. Life tenure, insulated from political pressure aside from impeachment and conviction, they've proven themselves to be equally capable of doing ill as has the Congress and Presidents.

"Recently, the Tallahassee police department revealed it had used stingrays at least 200 times since 2010 without telling any judge because the device’s manufacturer made the police department sign a non-disclosure agreement that police claim prevented them from disclosing use of the device to the courts"

What complete and utter BS. Does that mean that the DA too had no idea about the use of stingray because the police couldn't tell them either. I think figuring out who should know (and who shouldn't) is probably very very selective!

Who is going to be the first device manufacturer to provide Stingray protection for their phones? Apple? Google?

It's in the chipset of the cellular radio (3G/4G/etc), whose source is generally not available to anyone. And, more to the point, the code running on the chip can deceive the operating system.

Apparently there's an undocumented iOS API to let apps get some cellular base station data (though on iOS it additionally requires jailbreaking; I'm not sure if that's an app privilege issue or just an "Apple banning software that uses undocumented APIs from the App Store" issue).


Current IMSI catcher devices aren't routinely attacking the baseband, so many of their targets could probably detect them with judicious use of these APIs.

Perhaps more to the point, there is an "IMSI catcher catcher" project based on Osmocom-BB:


The downside is that you need a handset that can run Osmocom (almost certainly not the case for your current handset). The upside is that you can actually get plausibly credible data about the GSM base stations around you, including data that might reveal if some of them are fake.

Well, iOS does offer a hidden Field Test app that can surface a subset of this cellular base station data.

The code is * 3001#12345#* [1]. Tested on an iPhone 5S running iOS 7.1.1 that is not jailbroken.

[1] http://www.cultofmac.com/128306/access-the-hidden-field-test...

Interesting! I'd imagine that the data from this app might identify some kinds of IMSI catchers, depending on how they're configured and how well the user knows what to expect in their local GSM environment.

... maybe there's a documented Android API for a subset of this information?


It looks and acts like a normal cell phone tower... so there is no good way to provide protection against it.

Stingray apparently works by overloading signal over an area. I'm sure some math comparing device motion with sudden-tower-appearance could be put together into a reasonable heuristic.

Stingray works by having a stronger signal (It's closer to the user, kind of like a wifi hotspot). This can happen at anytime anyway, carriers have put up mobile towers before so that they can take down a single or multiple towers in an area for maintenance, or to provide extra coverage.

Are there possible ways to detect it, possibly, but will there be a HUGE amount of false positives, I fear there will be.

My solution was only with 10 seconds of thought from a layman. I'm not even an Electrical Engineer. I'm guessing the best-of-the-best in the Google-rola and Apple-A7+ hives are capable of deeper thoughts on the issue. They're at least closer to the point of contact from the tower than I am.

That's pretty scary. That implies that in addition to the target, anyone in the general vicinity of the target ( up to whatever the range of these things are ) would be tracked as well.

It's a good thing we can trust our agencies not to keep databases containing this unrelated but invasive information....right?

That is indeed correct, anyone within the vicinity would also connect to the tower...

So, accept upon proof of claim that this wouldn't prejudice the rights of the people of the state if the court gives full formal equity to the federal marshalls, and that this wouldn't be a classic case of Champerty and Maintenance[1].

Personally, I'm viewing this as another "pretend to fail" moment where they claim something is an insurmountable roadblock, when it's easily solvable.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champerty_and_maintenance

Was this before or after https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7843618, or was this a separate case entirely?

Added to Wikipedia over here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stingray_phone_tracker

If anyone wants to add more info, it's a worthy cause.

It just makes you wonder what they are hiding? Is it the capabilities of the device or something else? I don't understand why the feds would get involved. I hope they keep fighting to find out.

I believe it's more information about how the department has been using it in cases, records of the number of times it's been employed in the field, and I don't doubt they are looking for uses where the police may have used it to gather information illegally.

Yes but how would that involve the Federal government? That's really what I mean, the involvement of the US government vs the state or local government.

Welcome to the USSA.

I knew the news yesterday was to good to be true.

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