Fail: New York Assembly Committee Guts Bill to Limit Automatic License Plate Readers

A bill introduced in the New York Assembly to put strict limitations on the use of automated license plate reader systems (ALPRs) by the state was drastically altered in committee. The new version of the bill only applies restrictions to private individuals.

Introduced by Asm. Jeffrey Dinowitz on Feb. 13, Assembly Bill 5233 (A5233) was originally intended to ban law enforcement in the state from using ALPRs as a general location-tracking tool of millions of drivers, and would have banned the sharing of legitimately-obtained license plate data with outside sources. It would have also prohibited their use by non-law enforcement agencies.

However, the bill was severely altered by an amendment in the Assembly Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee before being referred to the Assembly Codes Committee, where it stands now. The new language removes all provisions pertaining to law enforcement and state government officials. As it now stands, the bill would only limit ALPR use by private individuals and companies.

The amended version of A5233 would maintain the status quo when it comes to law enforcement use if license plate readers in New York. That means absolutely no limits on how police use ALPRs and what they can do with the information they collect. According to the New York ACLU, “many localities in New York State are not adopting the policies necessary to safeguard the collection, use, sharing and retention of location information.”

Although A5233 was changed to remove most of its effect, its companion bill is still alive and unaltered in the Senate. Senate Bill 7245 (S7245) was introduced by Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) on Apr. 11. It reads, in part:

It shall be unlawful for any business, individual, partnership, corporation, association, or state or local government non-law enforcement entity to use an automatic license plate reader system. Continue reading

Judge ‘manipulated’ 9/11 attacks case, court document alleges

The judge overseeing the premiere military tribunal at Guantánamo Bay effectively conspired with the prosecution to destroy evidence relevant to defending the accused architect of the 9/11 attacks, according to a scathing court document.

Army Col James Pohl, who this week at Guantánamo is presiding over a resumption of pretrial hearings in the already troubled case, “in concert with the prosecution, manipulated secret proceedings and the use of secret orders”, the document alleges, preventing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s defense team from learning Pohl had permitted the Obama administration to destroy the evidence.

The accusation comes in a 10 May defense filing that the military commissions have recently unsealed. It contains significant detail about an episode that Mohammed’s attorneys say has permanently tainted the most high-profile test of the US’s post-9/11 turn toward military justice for terrorism cases.

“First they tell us they will not show us the evidence, but they will show our lawyers. Now, they don’t even show the lawyers. Why don’t they just kill us?” Mohammed, who faces execution, is quoted as saying in the filing.

Mohammed’s attorneys argue that the secret maneuvering left them unable to challenge the destruction of evidence. They contend that the case ought to be scrapped entirely. Their brief quotes a famous 1932 supreme court case, Powell v Alabama, to argue that failing to provide the defense access to evidence “would be little short of judicial murder”.

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5 Start-Ups Running On CIA Cash

In the wake of the Edward Snowden data dump, the CIA and Silicon Valley have had a rather chilly public relationship. But the two are closer than you might think, with the US intelligence agency investing in some Valley ventures.

One that’s received a lot of attention lately is Palantir. The shadowy, Peter Thiel-founded data-mining operation has hit a few roadblocks lately, according to a recent BuzzFeed profile. The company is reportedly buying up its own stock from employees rather than pursuing an IPO, perhaps because one of its investors is best known for its secrecy: In-Q-Tel.

In-Q-Tel is the arm of the CIA specifically set up to fund “projects of mutual interest to both the CIA and the commercial marketplace.” It’s been around since the late 90s, when the CIA became concerned that it was falling behind in the new digital age. The traditional government procurement process is less flexible than the “move fast and break things” motto of many start-ups, so In-Q-Tel looks to merge venture capital sensibilities with CIA cash. Continue reading

The FBI Wants to Exempt Massive Biometric Database From the Privacy Act

A BROAD COALITION of 45 signatories, including civil liberties, racial justice, human rights, and privacy organizations, published a letter Tuesday strongly condemning a proposal by the FBI to exempt its massive biometric database from certain provisions of the Privacy Act. Known as the Next Generation Identification system, or NGI, the FBI database houses the world’s largest collection of fingerprints, DNA profiles, palm prints, face images, and other biometric identifiers. The letter, signed by groups such as La Raza, Color of Change, Amnesty International, National LGBTQ Task Force, as well as the companies Uber and Lyft, criticized the agency’s May 5 proposal on the grounds that the “system uses some of the most advanced surveillance technologies known to humankind, including facial recognition, iris scans, and fingerprint recognition.”

Specifically, the FBI’s proposal would exempt the database from the provisions in the Privacy Act that require federal agencies to share with individuals the information they collect about them and that give people the legal right to determine the accuracy and fairness of how their personal information is collected and used. The exemption could render millions of records unavailable to subjects. As of December 2015, the NGI system contained 70,783,318 criminal records and 38,514,954 civil records. Continue reading

Amid a Growing Movement to Close Rikers, One Prisoner Approaches Six Years Without Trial

In October 2010, Anna’s son Jairo Pastoressa was arrested for stabbing and killing a young man during a dispute. He was charged with murder and denied bail and has been sitting in jail for 67 months, waiting for a trial that keeps being postponed. Eighty-five percent of Rikers’s nearly 10,000 detainees have not yet been tried. Although many are released within a week, some remain in the jail for years as their cases drag through New York’s chronically slow court system. As of March 2016, 75 percent of Rikers detainees had been awaiting trial for less than a year, but there were 109 whose cases had been pending for more than three years and another 209 who had been waiting for more than two years, according to a spokesperson with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. Jairo believes he is the longest-serving detainee currently on the island. “This system keeps those that have been accused of committing crimes out of sight and out of mind,” City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in her 2016 State of the City address, in which she announced an independent commission to review whether the population at Rikers can be reduced enough to make its closure possible. “Rikers Island has come to represent our worst tendencies and our biggest failures.” Continue reading