News Roundup: privacy is dead; the international drug war is on; pictures of your cat can save the day

If you didn’t have time to read the Office of Inspector General’s 500+ page report on Fast and Furious, here’s the summary: Attorney General Eric Holder told the truth, and did not personally know about the screw-ups until they were reported by the media. At fault were officials at ATF headquarters and the Phoenix field division.  And number six of the OIG’s six otherwise bland recommendations (review policies, create guidelines, etc.) was this: require high-level officials responsible for authorizing wiretap applications to actually read the applications they’re submitting. Ya think?

When GPS Tracking Violates Privacy Rights is the NYTimes opining the Sixth Circuit got it wrong when it held in U.S. v. Skinner that there is no “reasonable expectation of privacy in the data given off by his voluntarily procured pay-as-you-go cellphone.” But it’s no big deal, says Steven Rambam, who thinks it’s far too late to try and use privacy law to draw limits on government conduct. Rambam is a security who claims Everyone Who Attended OWS with a Cell Phone Had Their Identity Logged.  Truth or speculation?  Here’s Rambam’s Privacy is Dead – Get Over It presentation from last month. Judge for yourself.

The White House released its annual list of countries to put on its drug policy blacklist.  In a memo to Secretary of State Clinton, Obama huffs: “I hereby identify the following countries as major drug transit or major illicit drug producing countries: Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Burma, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela.” Oh goodness, he forgot the United States. Bolivian President Evo Morales said as much, as reports in Bolivia, Venezuela Reject US Drug Criticism.  A few days before Obama issued his memo, the Caravan for Peace had ended their 25 city journey in Washington DC, where over 100 Survivors of Mexico’s Drug Violence Tell US Government ‘We Need a New Approach.’

The buttoned up Foreign Policy magazine wonders this week, Does the FBI Have an Informant Problem? When FP poses something as a question, the answer is “yes.” It’s good to see that FB has launched a new National Security “channel”, with stories outing 10 Beltway Intel Centers Hiding in Plain Sight, breaking down for us What Obama’s High Priest of Targeted Killings Doesn’t Want You to Know, and asking What’s the Difference Between a Spook and a Special Operator?

The geeky Congressional Research Service released the geeky Intelligence Authorization Legislation: Status and Challenges this week. The report lays out the relationship between authorization and appropriations legislation, gives some background on why Congress feels it necessary to require annual authorization legislation for intelligence activities, and explains the weakness of Congress continuing to rely on authorization legislation as its primary oversight mechanism now that that intelligence agencies “serve an increasingly diverse variety of consumers throughout the government” and “produce information of direct interest to military commanders and a variety of other federal offices and, especially in regard to terrorist threats, even to state and local level officials.”

Police dogs are increasingly being used to sniff out cars, luggage, and now homes. When a dog sniffs up your private home, is this a search? The Supreme Court will decide Florida vs. Jardines in the upcoming term. A forthcoming law review article gives us a preview in Passing the Sniff Test: Police Dogs as Surveillance Technology.

Cats, meanwhile, are no good at sniffing but excellent at posing for internet photos. Not to be outdone by the CDC’s zombie apocalypse campaign (mentioned two weeks ago on Catfish), the American Public Health Association is doing its part for preparedness by running a Cat Preparedness Photo Contest. Take a picture of your cat being unprepared for some unspecified emergency, and win prizes. If it’s security theatre we’re watching (and paying big bucks for), there might as well be some comedy alongside the tragedies.


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