Good News: Judge Tells Homeland Security To Shut Up And Release Aaron Swartz’s File

from TechDirt

After Aaron Swartz’s suicide, Kevin Poulsen filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Homeland Security, asking for the Secret Service’s file on Aaron Swartz, since it was the Secret Service that handled the bulk of the investigation. Aaron, himself, was a big user of the FOIA process, including retrieving his own FBI file concerning his earlier run-in with the authorities over downloading PACER material. So it seemed bizarre that the Secret Service denied Poulsen’s request, “citing a FOIA exemption that covers sensitive law enforcement records that are part of an ongoing proceeding.” Considering that the case was closed and Swartz was dead, that seemed like a ridiculous excuse.

Poulsen went through the official appeal process, which was ignored leading him to officially sue. In May, the government admitted that the law enforcement exemption no longer made sense, but then continued to do nothing about releasing the documents. However, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly (a former FISA Court judge, and a name associated with various other high profile cases over the years) has now ordered the government to begin releasing the documents it has held about Aaron.

DHS claims that just last week it found a new stack of documents, and that it needs time to go through them all. The judge gave them a deadline of August 5th, but said it needs to already start releasing the documents it has already reviewed.

[read the rest, here]

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Good News: Federal Judge Allows EFF’s NSA Mass Spying Case to Proceed

from the EFF website

A federal judge today rejected the U.S. government’s latest attempt to dismiss the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF’s) long-running challenge to the government’s illegal dragnet surveillance programs. Today’s ruling means the allegations at the heart of the Jewel case move forward under the supervision of a public federal court.

“The court rightly found that the traditional legal system can determine the legality of the mass, dragnet surveillance of innocent Americans and rejected the government’s invocation of the state secrets privilege to have the case dismissed,” said Cindy Cohn, EFF’s Legal Director. “Over the last month, we came face-to-face with new details of mass, untargeted collection of phone and Internet records, substantially confirmed by the Director of National Intelligence. Today’s decision sets the stage for finally getting a ruling that can stop the dragnet surveillance and restore Americans’ constitutional rights.”

In the ruling, Judge Jeffrey White of the Northern District of California federal court agreed with EFF that the very subject matter of the lawsuit is not a state secret, and any properly classified details can be litigated under the procedures of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). As Judge White wrote in the decision, “Congress intended for FISA to displace the common law rules such as the state secrets privilege with regard to matter within FISA’s purview.” While the court allowed the constitutional questions to go forward, it also dismissed some of the statutory claims. A status conference is set for August 23

[read the rest, here]

Good News: Montana the first state to pass spy law

from the Daily Interlake

Montana made history this spring after passing the first state law to prevent the government from spying on anyone in the state by tracking personal information stored in their electronic devices.

The new law made Montana a pioneer in the age of electronic privacy rights by requiring state and local government entities to obtain a probable-cause warrant before remotely engaging personal electronic devices.

House Bill 603, sponsored by Rep. Daniel Zolnikov, R-Billings, was signed into law by Gov. Steve Bullock on May 6.

“I didn’t even know it was the first one in the country,” Zolnikov said. “We just saw other legislation and thought, ‘Why aren’t we doing this?’”

[read the rest, here]

Good News: Kentucky ending private prisons

(Rolling Back Privatization One State at a Time.)

from the Courier Journal

The state will not renew a contract with the private Marion Adjustment Center when it expires on Sunday meaning that for the first time in nearly 30 years Kentucky will soon be housing none of its inmates in privately-run prisons.

J. Michael Brown, the state Justice and Public Safety secretary, said in a news release Tuesday that the move will save the state about $2 million a year. And he credited a 2011 law and other steps taken by the General Assembly and the Beshear administration that reformed sentencing and increased drug treatment opportunities.

“This has created, for the first time in a generation, an opportunity to manage our inmate population with existing DOC (Department of Corrections) facilities, county jails and local halfway houses,” Brown said in a news release.

The state inmate population is dipping — from 22,102 inmates last November to 20,591 today, according to Jennifer Brislin, spokeswoman for the cabinet.

But to Marion County the move means the loss of about 160 jobs at the prison, said Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon.

“My first reaction is sadness and concern about those people who will be losing their jobs. I know this was a tough decision for the governor, but it’ll be a big hit to Marion County,” Higdon said.

Kentucky began contracting out the care of some inmates to private prisons in 1985, Brislin said, and for many years had three private prisons under contract.

[read the rest, here]