July 11, 2012 | By Trevor Timm

This Week in Transparency: Demands for Cell Data, Drones, and Declassification

Law Enforcement Demands User Cell Phone Data 1.3 Million Times

Yesterday, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) revealed that federal, state and local law enforcement agencies demanded user cell phone data 1.3 million times last year. The demands sought “text messages, caller locations, and other information.” The New York Times called the new findings proof of “an explosion in cellphone surveillance” in the United States—much of it done without a warrant. Worse, the eye-popping figure is a significant underestimate; the actual number is “almost certainly much higher" than reported. For further detail, read EFF’s analysis of this story from Monday.

Twitter Release First Ever Transparency Report

Twitter has released its Transparency Report to demonstrate its commitment to “hold governments accountable, especially on behalf of those who may not have a chance to do so themselves.” It was the first such report from the company. As Google's Transparency Report similarly showed, the US led all countries in user information requests: almost 80% of the 849 requests came from the US government. The company responded either in part or in full to 75 percent of the requests. Commendably, Twitter did not take down a single post in response to a government request. Another interesting number: Twitter fulfilled only 38% of the 3378 takedown requests sent for alleged copyright violations, showing how often bogus requests are sent out in response to protected free speech. In its blog post, the company reported that it has received more government requests for user information in the first half of 2012 than it did all of last year.

EFF's Drones Campaign Teams Up With MuckRock

EFF's recently launched campaign to find out what local police agencies are doing with drones was joined by MuckRock, an open government organization dedicated to helping people send requests for public records. EFF previously released a list of drone authorizations in the US received in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the FAA. The campaign intends to send out public records requests to every local law enforcement agency with a drone authorization from the FAA. Muckrock is offering their tools and inviting users to help write their own public records requests to police agencies in their town. We encourage users to contact their local police departments and let us know what they find.

Costs to Protect Classified Information Now Up to $11.4 Billion Dollars

Despite its commitment to become “the most transparent administration in history,” the Obama administration again raised spending this year on government secrecy. The government spent $11.4 billion dollars to protect classified information systems, double the cost of decade ago. The costs, which include both physical and virtual security precautions, are up 12 percent from 2010 and almost 30 percent over 2009. And that figure doesn't even include spending from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the CIA, the National Reconnaissance Office and three other intelligence agencies because those figures are classified. Unfortunately, the rising costs come as no surprise as the Obama administration, despite campaign promises to the contrary, continues to expand the country's bloated classification system. The figure was released in a report by the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), which oversees the security classification system.

Government Requests Official FOIA An Already-Declassified Email

J. William Leonard, Bush’s former classification czar, was rebuffed by the NSA in his attempt to force the release of a document he alleged was classified improperly against US policy. The email, which is now declassified, was part of the documents cited in charges against Thomas Drake. Leonard reviewed the email while serving as an expert witness in the case, and, since leaving office, has become a critic of the government’s broken secrecy system. Leonard wants to discuss the contents of the email as a classic example of overclassification, but is unable to because of a court order. With the case now over, Drake's lawyers asked the court to lift the order. The government responded to the request by telling Leonard to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the contents of the email. Leonard filed such a FOIA request over a year ago, yet the document remains secret.

 

 

 

 


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