David Kirkpatrick

December 29, 2009

Out of this list of security predictions for 2010 …

… from PC World, here’s three I’d like to see come to pass:

* The FBI issues tens of thousands of security letters to get records on individuals without warrants. Congress investigates and is appalled at the FBI’s “underreporting”. The FBI promises to do better (see 2009, and 2008 and 2007….). The 4th amendment continues to erode into meaninglessness.

* Real ID dies a deserved death and is abandoned in 2010. The brain dead idea of better-security-via-universal-ID unfortunately persists despite the enormous number of identity theft victims created by over-reliance on SSN.

* The Transportation Security Administration stops wasting billions of dollars in traveller delays by confiscating water bottles and removing shoes. Instead it focuses on real threats based on rational risk assessment, not security theater based on movie-plots (hat-tip Bruce Schneier). OK, unlikely, but I can dream, can’t I?

(Obviously that last one went out the window with the terrorism attempt over Christmas.)

Advertisements

July 17, 2009

Obama, Bush and warrantless wiretapping

I’m of two minds on this case. On one side I think the government has a legitimate interest in keeping the general public in the dark about elements of spycraft sausage-making. Flip that coin over and you have a double dose of privacy concerns and the government essentially arguing it can’t be held accountable by the very people who “own” the government in United States citizens.

Obama’s rapidly disillusioned supporters see the DoJ actions as a betrayal. I tend to see this as protecting entrenched interests of the executive branch. Some of these interests are part of the dark Bush 43 legacy.

Of course one reason I voted for Obama was for the White House to get out the cleaning fluids and scrub away the insidious creep of the government into privacy and civil liberties. Change? Maybe not so much. Hopefully only not so much just yet.

From the link:

Lawyers from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Electronic Frontier Foundation squared off in a San Francisco courtroom Wednesday over a warrantless wiretapping program instituted by the Bush administration. The EFF sued the government and officials who implemented the secret program in September in an effort to get the government to stop the practice of recording communications involving U.S. citizens without a federal warrant. The EFF argues that this warrantless wiretapping is illegal, but government lawyers say the lawsuit should be thrown out because it could lead to the disclosure of state secrets.

The judge in the case, Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, already heard most of these arguments during an ongoing 2006 suit, Hepting v. AT&T, that also sought to put an end to the program. The EFF brought this second suit, Jewel v. NSA, after Congress passed a law last year that protected telecommunications companies like AT&T from lawsuits over the wiretapping.

Click here to find out more! On Wednesday, DoJ lawyer Anthony Coppolino argued that federal laws allow people to sue government employees who leak information, but do not let them sue the government itself. Coppolino added that litigating such cases could put state secrets at risk by exposing details of the government’s anti-terrorist programs.

June 24, 2008

Politicizing Justice

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:43 pm

John Ashcroft turned out to be one of the early, and surprising, good guys in the Bush 43 administration — most notably on his push-back against then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales on warrantless wiretapping. All that said, his run at the head of the Department of Justice was less than perfect.

One of the more struturally damaging aspects of the DOJ under Bush 43 has been the blatant, and illegal, politicization of the hiring practices at the department, bringing in scads of underqualified graduates of third-rate at best Christian law schools simply because the candidates had what I’ll charitably term “Bush conservative” bona fides.

A black mark on Ashcroft’s mixed legacy will be setting this process into motion.

From the second link:

The blistering report, prepared by the Justice Department’s inspector general, is the first in what will be a series of investigations growing out of last year’s scandal over the firings of nine United States attorneys. It appeared to confirm for the first time in an official examination many of the allegations from critics who charged that the Justice Department had become overly politicized during the Bush administration.

“Many qualified candidates” were rejected for the department’s honors program because of what was perceived as a liberal bias, the report found. Those practices, the report concluded, “constituted misconduct and also violated the department’s policies and civil service law that prohibit discrimination in hiring based on political or ideological affiliations.”

The shift began in 2002, when advisers to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft restructured the honors program in response to what some officials saw as a liberal tilt in recruiting young lawyers from elite law schools like Harvard and Yale. While the recruitment was once controlled largely by career officials in each section who would review applications, political officials in the department began to assume more control, rejecting candidates with liberal or Democratic affiliations “at a significantly higher rate” than those with Republican or conservative credentials, the report said.

The shift appeared to accelerate in 2006, under then-Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, with two aides on the screening committee — Michael Elston and Esther Slater McDonald — singled out for particular criticism. The blocking of applicants with liberal credentials appeared to be a particular problem in the Justice Department’s civil rights division, which has seen an exodus of career employees in recent years as the department has pursued a more conservative agenda in deciding what types of cases to bring.