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Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘Privacy Act of 1974’

National Park Service To Spy On Picnics, Family Gatherings, Weddings and Much More – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on July 21, 2021

It is hard to imagine that when Congress created the National Park Service in 1872 they would have envisioned that the White House would turn it into a spy agency.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2021/07/no_author/national-park-service-to-spy-on-picnics-family-gatherings-weddings-and-much-more/

MassPrivateI

According to a notice published in the Federal Register, the Department of the Interior (DOI) is turning the National Park Service (NPS) into a mirror image of the NSA, FBI, DHS and every other three-letter spy agency you can think of.

“Pursuant to the provisions of the Privacy Act of 1974, as amended, the Interior DOI is issuing a public notice of its intent to modify the National Park Service (NPS) Privacy Act system of records, INTERIOR/NPS-1, Special Use Permits.”

This so-called modification of special records permits will allow law enforcement to collect a disturbing amount of personal information on national park visitors.

As Nextgov points out, anyone wishing to get a permit to use one of America’s 423 national parks will have all their personal information sent to the White House.

“The NPS is making it easier to share more data with the White House and other federal agencies on applications and approvals of special use permits for parks spaces.”

America’s absurd War on Terror is now targeting picnics, family gatherings, weddings etc.

“People interested in using a park for a specific purpose at a specific time generally have to obtain a special use permit. NPS issues permits for three types of uses: standard events like weddings, sports, picnics and family gatherings; special events like demonstrations, races, tournaments and the like; and construction, research and utility work.”

When park users apply for such permits, the system collects a wealth of data needed to process the application, including:

  • Name, organization, Social Security number, Tax Identification Number, date of birth, address, telephone number, fax number, email address, person’s position title.
  • Information of proposed activity including park alpha code, permit number, date, location, number of participants and vehicles, type of use, equipment, support personnel for the activity, company, project name and type, fees, liability insurance information.
  • Payment information including amounts paid, credit card number, credit card expiration date, check number, money order number, bank or financial institution, account number, payment reference number and tracking ID number.
  • Information on special activities including number of minors, livestock, aircraft type, special effects, special effect technician’s license and permit number, stunts, unusual or hazardous activities.
  • Information on driver’s license including number, state and expiration date.
  • Vehicle information including year, make, color, weight, plate number and insurance information.

According to the notice in the Federal Register, the purpose in collecting everyone’s personal information is “to provide park superintendents with information to approve or deny requests for activities on NPS managed park lands.”

Does anyone really believe that park rangers or campground hosts need visitors SSN’s, DOBs, bank account numbers etc., so they can approve or deny a persons’ request to use our national park[s]?

Nextgov does a great job of describing the NPS collecting park visitors personal information as being an innocuous “update”; it is not.

Page 7 of the notice reveals that the NPS will routinely send everyone’s personal information to numerous federal agencies.

“In addition to those disclosures generally permitted under 5 U.S.C. 552a(b) of the Privacy Act, all or a portion of the records or information contained in this system may be disclosed outside DOI as a routine use pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552a(b)(3).”  

Below is an abbreviated description of the federal agencies that will routinely have access to permit application park visitors personal information:

A. The Department of Justice (DOJ), including Offices of the U.S. Attorneys, or other Federal agency. Any other Federal agency appearing before the Office of Hearings and Appeals.

B. A congressional office when requesting information on behalf of, and at the request of, the individual who is the subject of the record.

C. The Executive Office of the President.

D. Any criminal, civil, or regulatory law enforcement authority (whether  Federal, state, territorial, local, tribal or foreign) when a record, either alone or in  conjunction with other information, indicates a violation or potential violation of law –  criminal, civil, or regulatory in nature, and the disclosure is compatible with the purpose  for which the records were compiled.

E. An official of another Federal agency.

F. Federal, state, territorial, local, tribal, or foreign agencies that have requested information relevant or necessary to the hiring, firing or retention of an employee or contractor, or the issuance of a security clearance, license, contract, grant or other benefit, when the disclosure is compatible with the purpose for which the records were compiled.

G. Representatives of the National Archives and Records Administration.

H. State, territorial and local governments and tribal organizations to provide information needed in response to a court order.

I. An expert, consultant, grantee, or contractor (including employees of the contractor) of DOI that performs services requiring access to these records on DOI’s behalf to carry out the purposes of the system.

J. Appropriate agencies, entities of the Federal Government.

K. To another Federal agency or Federal entity, when DOI determines that information from this system of records is reasonably necessary to assist the recipient agency.

L. The Office of Management and Budget.

N. The news media and the public, with the approval of the Public Affairs Officer in consultation with counsel and the Senior Agency Official for Privacy.

According to the memo, the NPS and will keep everyone’s personal information for 15 years at which time they promise to delete or shred it.

“Retention of records with short-term operational value and not considered essential for the ongoing management of land and cultural and natural resources are destroyed 15 years after closure. Paper records are disposed of by shredding or pulping, and records contained on electronic media are degaussed or erased in accordance with 384 Departmental Manual 1.”

Does anyone really think that picnics, family gatherings and weddings pose a threat to our Homeland?

There is one bit of good news to come out of turning the NPS into a spy agency: national park visitors can request a copy of what records the Feds have on them if they include the specific bureau or office that keeps those records in an information request.

“An individual requesting records on himself or herself should send a signed, written inquiry to the applicable System Manager identified above. The request must include the specific bureau or office that maintains the record to facilitate location of the applicable records. The request envelope and letter should both be clearly marked “PRIVACY ACT REQUEST FOR ACCESS.”  

And as you can see from the list above, it is going to be a crapshoot to guess which specific federal agency or which branch of law enforcement was spying on your picnic, family gathering or wedding.

It is hard to imagine that when Congress created the National Park Service in 1872 they would have envisioned that the White House would turn it into a spy agency.

As Americans everywhere rush to visit our national parks how many of them will care that the Feds are collecting vast amounts of personal information about them and storing it for 15 years?

Do Americans care enough to stop DHS from turning formerly benign government institutions like the U.S. Postal Service and the National Park Service into federal spying agencies? Only time will tell.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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RCFP analysis: Court orders FBI to expunge Antiwar.com records

Posted by M. C. on January 18, 2020

The FIB started on Antiwar.com’s case when Antiwar.com reprinted documents available on the ‘net. The FIB didn’t like those particular docs.

Since when has the FIB been concerned about obeying the law? What about the copies the FIB doesn’t tell US about?

A good call by the court but useless in reality. We are dealing with scum.

https://www.rcfp.org/fbi-antiwar-privacy-act/

In late November, a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California directed the Federal Bureau of Investigation to expunge certain records relating to Eric Garris, an editor of the website Antiwar.com, which describes itself as promoting “non-interventionism” and posts related news and opinions.

The move comes after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held in September that federal law prohibits law enforcement agencies from maintaining records describing First Amendment activity, unless the record “is pertinent to and within the scope of an ongoing law enforcement activity.” The case marked the first time the Ninth Circuit has considered that question.

Garris v. FBI involved the FBI’s collection and maintenance of records on the editors of Antiwar.com. The site’s editors and co-founders, Garris and Justin Raimondo, challenged the bureau’s preservation of records describing their work and sought to have the records expunged under the Privacy Act of 1974. The court of appeals agreed with their arguments related to a detailed post-9/11 “threat assessment” memorandum, noting that the FBI did not demonstrate that the memo at issue was “pertinent” to ongoing law enforcement activity.

Regarding the 2004 FBI memo, the court stated: “It cannot be that maintaining a record of purely protected First Amendment activity is relevant to an authorized law enforcement activity simply on the representation that maintaining the record would ‘serve to inform ongoing and future investigative activity.’”

This decision may be significant in light of recent high-profile examples of government efforts to monitor journalists based on newsgathering activity. In May, for instance, the Reporters Committee joined a group of 103 organizations that signed a letter to the then-acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security raising concerns over reports of surveillance activities by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The letter called for an end to the practice, warning that surveillance of journalists may violate the Privacy Act and infringe on the rights of the press.

The court’s decision to clarify what is permissible under the Privacy Act is also notable given the history of the law.

History of the Privacy Act

Congress passed the Privacy Act of 1974 largely to address instances of illegal government surveillance of individuals based on what many considered to be protected First Amendment activity. As our Reporters Committee colleague Linda Moon noted in June, “Revelations of domestic surveillance of journalists and others exercising First Amendment rights were in the minds of lawmakers considering the Privacy Act prior to its passage.”

Indeed, from about 1956 to 1971, the FBI targeted political organizations it deemed “subversive” through an operation called “COINTELPRO.” The bureau gathered intelligence through illegal surveillance methods, and agents were instructed to discredit the leaders of the groups. Both the CIA and NSA also had programs monitoring, among others, journalists.

In 1974, Congress responded to these programs by passing the Privacy Act, along with amendments to the Freedom of Information Act. The Reporters Committee observed in 2009 that, “Together, the laws were meant to keep the public aware of government’s machinations, while giving meaning to a person’s right to be free from government intrusion.” The Privacy Act permits individuals to access and correct records on them held by the government. Crucially, it mandates that the government “maintain no record describing how any individual exercises rights guaranteed by the First Amendment unless … pertinent to and within the scope of an authorized law enforcement activity.”

The question in Garris was whether the FBI could legally hold on to memos on First Amendment activities that were no longer pertinent to an ongoing case.

The Ninth Circuit’s decision

While the website Antiwar.com self-describes as advocating for “non-interventionism” — effectively opposition to interference in other nations’ affairs and war except in self-defense — the content on the site includes both original and aggregated news and analysis on war, foreign policy, civil liberties, and other related issues. After learning through documents released pursuant to Freedom of Information Act requests that the FBI had created records focusing on their website, Garris and Raimondo filed the action in 2013. Raimondo passed away last year, but Garris’ appeal remained.

The issues for Antiwar originated almost two decades ago. According to Brennan Center for Justice fellow Mike German’s book “Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide,” on Sept. 12, 2001, Garris received an email threatening to hack the website. He forwarded it the FBI, but did not receive a response.

In March 2004, the FBI informed all field offices that an unclassified post-9/11 suspect list had been posted on the internet. “An FBI agent subsequently discovered a twenty-two-page untitled Excel spreadsheet, dated 10/03/2001” — likely an FBI watchlist — published on Antiwar.com. The Newark, New Jersey, office of the FBI prepared a 10-page “threat assessment” on Antiwar. The memo described the site’s mission and included a description of six articles found through a Lexis Nexis search for Garris and Antiwar.com. Further, the memo noted that “persons of interest” to the FBI had accessed or discussed the website.

The memo ultimately indicated that the Newark office recommended that the FBI’s field office in San Francisco monitor Garris and Antiwar’s postings. Yet the San Francisco office declined to do so, explaining that the website was “not a clear threat to National Security.” It categorized the site as a source of public information and said Garris “[was] exercising [his] constitutional right to free speech.”

Garris learned of the 2004 memo after it was released as part of an unrelated FOIA request. Garris then filed his own FOIA request, and the subsequent response was not as heavily redacted as the version that was posted online. The document stated that Garris had threatened to “disrupt FBI operations by hacking the FBI website.” As German points out, however, this was clearly a mistake. The analyst who received the email from Garris believed the message was a threat against the FBI, and did not realize that Garris was actually forwarding the email that contained the threat against Antiwar’s own website. Still, according to the memo, the FBI continued to monitor Garris and Antiwar.

Garris filed FOIA and Privacy Act requests seeking all FBI records about him, and when he exhausted the administrative remedies, he filed a lawsuit. He also separately filed requests seeking expungement of all records maintained by the FBI that described his exercise of First Amendment rights.

During the litigation, Garris also learned of the existence of another memo, called the “Halliburton Memo.” In 2006, the FBI’s Oklahoma City field office created the memo, which detailed plans by groups to protest Halliburton, the oil field services company once run by former Vice President Dick Cheney. Antiwar.com had posted information about a Halliburton shareholders’ meeting, and so the website was listed in the memo as one of the sources of publicly shared information about the meeting.

Garris sought expungement of these records, arguing that the law enforcement activity exception did not apply to them because the investigations in both memos had ended and the records were not pertinent to an ongoing authorized law enforcement activity. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ultimately granted summary judgment to the FBI. The parties settled the remaining disclosure issues, but Garris appealed the Privacy Act claims.

Though there were many issues for the court to consider, the most pertinent for press freedom purposes was whether maintaining the 2004 memo and the Halliburton memo violated the Privacy Act, or whether they fell within the “law enforcement activity” exception (i.e., the government can maintain records if “pertinent” to an authorized law enforcement activity).

The question largely turned on statutory interpretation. The FBI argued that the “law enforcement activity” exception allows agencies to both collect and maintain records so long as they were pertinent to an authorized law enforcement activity at the time of collection. But the appeals court rejected that interpretation, stating, “to accept the FBI’s preferred reading would be to read the word ‘maintain’ out of the statute.” The court suggested that if that had been the intent, Congress could have specifically stated that it was enough to fall under the exception for a record to be “compiled for” an authorized law enforcement activity. Instead, the court reasoned that, according to the language, each act of an agency must individually be justified to fall under the exception.

The decision also highlighted the legislative history of the Privacy Act. Quoting MacPherson v. Internal Revenue Service, the appeals court ruling stated that “Congress was clearly interested in preventing both collection and retention of records, with a strong eye to preventing the government from maintaining ‘information not immediately needed, about law-abiding Americans, on the off-chance that Government or the particular agency might possibly have to deal with them in the future.’” Yet the government had contended just that, saying the maintenance of the 2004 memo would “serve to inform ongoing and future investigative activity.”

The court ultimately held that this was not enough, and the FBI had not met the burden under the interpretation of the Privacy Act. Instead, “The 2004 Memo specifically details Garris’ protected First Amendment activities, including his political views and articles he wrote, allegedly to conduct a threat assessment prompted by the posting of the FBI watch list.” The court even noted that the FBI conceded that the posting of the list was protected First Amendment activity. The FBI failed to offer a connection between the memo and a specific investigation, and so the “law enforcement activity” exception did not apply.

This acknowledgement — by both the FBI and the court — is important. Indeed, as the Reporters Committee has previously noted, news outlets are often the recipients of leaked or classified information. It is common for many news outlets to post full or edited versions of documents. Yet posting information that has been obtained legally is not illegal. Indeed, the act of posting government information should not in itself warrant opening an investigation into the outlet or its reporters.

While the court did note that the Halliburton memo was of “ongoing relevance” to law enforcement’s preparation for “an oft-protested meeting,” the court also stated the Halliburton memo was not specifically filed under Garris’ name or that of Antiwar.com. Instead, the website was listed merely to provide context as to where coverage of the shareholders’ meeting can be found.” Thus, the court stated that the memo did not have to be expunged.

Ultimately, given the court’s holding on the 2004 memo, this decision sheds light on an important but rarely considered provision of the Privacy Act, and clarifies in the Ninth Circuit that government agencies have an obligation to expunge records that lack a direct connection to an ongoing criminal investigation.

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hoover

Yes son, you too can grow up to be lying scum and hate black people.

 

 

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