Dec 21 2010

CBP’s answer to our lawsuit: Deny everything, and claim that nobody has any rights

Where has your PNR data gone?

Where has your PNR data gone? (click image for larger version or here for details)

The U.S. government has filed its initial answer to our lawsuit against U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for illegally withholding records of its travel surveillance system, and an initial procedural hearing in the case has been scheduled for Thursday, January 6, 2011, at 10 a.m. in San Francisco.

But if the government’s claims are true, the implications of some of them are shocking. In particular, they claim that, “Plaintiff was provided all documents that he is entitled to by law,” even though — like everyone else who has requested their records from the “Automated Targeting System” (ATS) — we have never received anything that was even claimed to be in response to my request for the “accounting of disclosures” required by the Privacy Act. Nor did we receive anything which was even claimed to be the “risk assessments” made of me, or the rules for determining those risk assessments, both of which were mentioned in CBP’s years-belated official notice of the contents of the ATS.

In other words, the government is claiming in answer to our lawsuit that nobody — not even U.S. citizens — has any legal entitlement to know what other government agencies or third parties have received their travel records including PNR’s from CBP, what “risk” scores (used to decide whether to allow us to fly, or how to treat us) have been assigned to us, or how those scores have been generated.

So much for any pretense of transparency, accountability, or access rights. Nobody has any right to know who has gotten our PNRs, or how they are being used against us.

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Dec 08 2010

Phil Mocek trial postponed again; no hearing Thursday

Yesterday, as we’ve reported, Phil Mocek and his attorney were ready for trial, but the prosecution asked for a delay to allow them more time to review the video evidence of the events at the TSA checkpoint — despite defense counsel’s statement to the judge that the prosecution had already been aware of this evidence. and that it only depicts facts that should have been known to the prosecution.

The trial was originally expected to take two to three days. Judge Kevin Fitzwater continued the start of the trial until Thursday, but also said that he is doing military reserve duty next week and the following week. So a trial that started this Thursday would have had to go to the  jury by the end of the day Friday, or be interrupted for two weeks in mid-trial, with unpredictable effects on jurors’ memories of testimony. It’s also possible that whatever issues the prosecution has with the defense video evidence will lengthen the time the prosecution will take to present their case or question defense witnesses.

Not surprisingly in light of all this, we’ve been told by Mr. Mocek that the trial is being postponed to a date to be determined later (probably in January or February), and there will be no further court hearing or appearance by Mr. Mocek on Thursday or any other day this week.

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Dec 07 2010

TSA releases list of SOPs — but says they’re all secret

Eleven months after the deadline for their response set by the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), the TSA has finally responded to our request for the TSA “Standard Operating Procedures” referred to in December 2009 testimony to Congress by TSA Acting Administrator Gale Rossides.

The TSA did give us the list of SOPs (the first time this has been disclosed), but withheld the SOPs themselves in their entirely.  [We have appealed that withholding.]

There are no laws or published regulations defining what the TSA is permitted to do, and what travelers are required to submit to, in the name of TSA “screening”.  As a result, the TSA’s “Standard Operating Procedures” — even though they aren’t binding on either the TSA or travelers — are the most detailed written documentation of what is “supposed” to happen at TSA checkpoints.

We are entitled to know what powers the TSA claims over us, and what rules they claim we have to follow.

If public-spirited leakers have access to any of these documents, we encourage you to make them public, directly or through us, through Wikileaks, or through other investigative reporters:

  • Screening Checkpoint SOP
  • Screening Management SOP
  • Checked Baggage SOP
  • Advanced Imaging Technology (WBI) [listed twice — does this mean that there are 2 such SOPs?]
  • Playbook SOP
  • Colorimetric SOP
  • Stand Off Detection
  • Visible Intermodal Protection and Response
  • Bomb Appraisal Officer
  • SPOT
Dec 07 2010

Phil Mocek’s trial continued to Thursday, December 9th

What is the TSA afraid of?

TSA: Goon squad or Keystone rent-a-cops?

When the case of State of New Mexico v. Phillip Mocek (misspelled in the court docket as “Moesack”) was called this morning in Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court in Albuquerque, the defense was ready for trial.

But Assistant District Attorney Dan Rislove claimed that he had only just yesterday learned of the existence of additional video evidence, and needed more time to review this video.

Defense attorney Molly Schmidt-Nowara told the court that the prosecution had already been aware of the existence of this video, but agreed to a 2-day delay of the trial until 9 a.m. Thursday morning, December 9th, to allow the prosecutor more time to review the video.

Most of the Albuquerque police and TSA “officers” (not) already identified in the videos and other records released in response to Mr. Mocek’s requests for public records were present in court.

But when (by prior arrangement and with the court’s explicit prior permission) we began photographing those in attendance, the TSA and police became visibly agitated, to the point of apparent near-panic. They got the prosecutor to point out our camera to Judge Kevin Fitzwater. Judge Fitzwater, however, said that he was already aware of our camera and audio recorder and had given us permission to use them as long we didn’t record or photograph members of the jury pool, none of whom were yet in the room.

Meanwhile, the men from the TSA held up manila folders for the remainder of the hearing to hide their faces — already familiar from their own videos and surveillance camera photos — from any photos after our first one reproduced above.  It seems that the intense fear of public scrutiny they showed in going after Mr. Mocek for allegedly trying to take photos at the checkpoint at ABQ continues today, and extends even into a courtroom where the defendant has a Constitutional right to a public trial.

What is the TSA trying to hide?

Stay tuned. We’ll be there when Phil Mocek returns to court in Albuquerque on Thursday morning.

[Update: We’ll be talking about the case with Adam Kokesh on KIVA 1550 AM in ABQ and online from 9-11 p.m. MT tonight.  Video archive of the show.]

Dec 06 2010

“TSA case goes to trial tomorrow in Albuquerque”

Albuquerque’s Weekly Alibi reports today in their blog on the trial of “Freedom Flyer” Phil Mocek scheduled to begin Tuesday morning:

Phil Mocek’s trial in Bernalillo County Metro Court tomorrow might be the first of its kind in the country. He was arrested after refusing to present identification to the Transportation Security Administration….

Edward Hasbrouck is a consultant to the Identity Project in California…. “We were obviously disturbed to find that Mr. Mocek had been arrested and had been essentially framed on these charges,” Hasbrouck says in an interview with the Alibi.

He adds that the four charges leveled against Mocek are not the real reasons he was arrested. “The real reason he was arrested is that the TSA didn’t like what he was doing,” Hasbrouck says. “The real charge is questioning the illegitimate authority of the TSA. Now, why the local authorities are choosing to put themselves out on a limb, trumping up bogus charges just to keep the TSA [happy] is a question that you’d have to ask the prosecutor in Albuquerque.”

Neither Dan Rislove, the attorney representing the state, nor TSA spokesperson Luis Casanova have yet returned the Alibi’s calls.

Ironically, despite the nationally precedent-setting TSA resistance case about to go to trial, an airport spokesperson told Albuquerque’s KRQE-13 TV news last month that, with respect to TSA “screening” procedures at ABQ,  “We have not seen a lot of resistance locally here.”

We’ll be posting updates on the trial here.  But since no cell phones, laptops, pagers, or other electronic communications devices are allowed anywhere in the courthouse, don’t expect live-blogging or for us to be able to return phone calls or e-mail messages from the courthouse or until the end of each day of the trial.

Dec 01 2010

Testimony to the Canadian Parliament on US access to travel data

Edward Hasbrouck of the Identity Project testified yesterday on behalf of the Liberty Coalition at a hearing before the Canadian House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities on Bill C-42, which — as we’ve discussed previously — would override Canada’s “Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act” (PIPEDA) to permit airlines to give personal information about passengers to the government of any country whose airspace a flight would pass through, even if it didn’t land in that country.

Bill C-42 was proposed by the government, but is being opposed by some within Parliament as well as civil liberties and human rights activists and (along with the US Secure Flight scheme) by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

The English-language audio archive of the hearing is here; the complete transcript is here. Mr. Hasbrouck’s introductory statement is from 24:45 to 35:15 of the audio stream; he was also questioned extensively by the members of the Committee.

Because of the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, the invitation to testify arrived too late for the requisite translation into French of any written notes or supporting documents. For more background on the information architecture and cross-border data flows of the airline industry, see the slides from Mr. Hasbrouck’s more detailed testimony on related issues earlier this year at the European Parliament in Brussels.

Here’s the transcript of our introductory statement:

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