Tag Archives: wiretapping

Police Stops are not Private Conversations

Anthony Graber is a former Air National Guardsman who has never been arrested – until a few months ago. He fully admits to speeding on his motorcycle with no helmet, and knows that he should pay the price for that. Should that price include having a gun pulled on him by a plain-clothes officer? Does it merit having six state troopers raiding his parents’ house and taking four computers early the next morning? Should it warrant being charged with a felony and being threatened with five years in prison? These are the things that actually happened to Mr. Graber – all because he dared to record the incident with the helmet camera that was already running before he was pulled over.

The Maryland State Police were so outraged at Anthony for posting the video on his YouTube channel that they did all of the above – and more. Police arrived at his folks’ house at 6:45 AM on a weekday and detained his entire family for more than an hour while they rummaged through their personal belongings. Graber’s sister wasn’t allowed to leave for school, and his mother wasn’t able to head to work. The search warrant was signed by some cockamamie judge – whose signature doesn’t even appear on the paperwork. Graber was told that they don’t show up in order to protect the privacy of the judge. Huh… what about the privacy of the family who did nothing wrong?

The First Amendment allows us to photograph police officers in a public setting. Numerous court rulings have determined that over the years. The Maryland State PD apparently decided to take a different tactic. They charged Anthony with “wire-tapping” in an attempt to crack down on people video taping them in public.

During the March incident, Graber sped past the unmarked police car. Officer Uhler claimed that Anthony was popping a wheelie at the time while traveling 100 mph. Interestingly enough, Uhler was only visually estimating the speed of the bike. He didn’t have a radar gun which means the ticket likely wouldn’t have even held up in court. If you watch the video, you’ll notice that not a single wheelie was popped at any point in time.

Graber also admits to speeding past a marked car. However, he never heard any sirens behind him and even at one point in the video where Graber looks back, the only car behind him is Uhler’s unmarked car with no lights. That was when Graber was already exiting the interstate. When he came to a complete stop behind the other cars at the exit, Uhler cut him off and hopped out of his car with a gun drawn, never flashing a badge and not identifying himself as an officer until several seconds later.

Officer Uhler never stated in his report that he had drawn a gun. Isn’t that only supposed to happen when an officer feels his life is in danger? The report only mentions a citation for traveling 80 mph in a 65 mph zone and a “strange looking object on the operator’s helmet that was later realized to be a video camera.”

TEN DAYS LATER, Uhler discovered the video on YouTube. It was only then that he issued an arrest warrant against Graber stating that “Graber did not inform Tfc. Uhler that he was recording him by video or audio, thus violating criminal law 10-402(b).” He also added charges of reckless driving and negligent driving.

After his home was raided and he turned himself in to the authorities, Graber spent 26 hours in jail. The judge who released him on his own recognizance stated that it didn’t appear he violated the wiretapping law. Maryland requires there to be an expectation of privacy in order to make that charge valid.

What are your thoughts? Do you believe that this police officer – and others like him – are working a little too hard to keep from being videotaped during a routine stop or an arrest? What, exactly, do they think they need to hide?

The Government is Wiretapping Your Phone and Email and Most of You Don’t Care

Geek!This is Richard Dicter’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

Last Tuesday, with relatively little notice from the public, two arguments were taking place in the San Francisco US District courtroom of Judge Vaughn Walker The arguments generated little scarcely any buzz last week, but OS X 10.5.6, a possible new Apple netbook, Snow Leopard, the vision of a sugarplum of a $99 iPhone, Vista SP2, and leaked Windows 7 Build 6956 did. At stake was whether the Telcom and Comcom companies, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Comcast and others, whose past employees have verified have been warrantlessly wiretapping your phones and email for the U.S. government, could be sued – and two major lawsuits against them could go forward, or whether a bill passed recently by Congress could confer immunity on them.

The Bush administration – and a number of your Senators, as well as the respective companies – reasoned that they have broken no laws. If this were the case, there wouldn’t have been such a monumental fight in Congress to grant them immunity. When these companies wiretapped you and collected your email, they were hardly naïve. Their corporate counsel were very seasoned litigators who came from the ranks of a little known division of the DOJ called the National Security Division, or NSD. They wrote the laws on wiretapping that have been passed in the past 20 plus years.

Immunity is not really about protecting these large companies from suits. It was specifically designed to cover the backside of the administration who trampled over the laws to protect you from being spied upon by your government for the last eight years. The Bush administration has insisted for the past several years that no innocent Americans were being wiretapped. Nothing could be further from the actual truth. A recent book written by an attorney who was a former ABC News producer, naval intelligence officer, and former CIA employee James Bamford called The Shadow Factory details how every word you speak or write electronically is being listened to and catalogued in stunning detail.

This book analyzes the enormous tentacles of the National Security Agency and CIA, including billion dollar satellites that can hear your whispers on a cell phone, dishes that pull in millions of phone calls, emails, and FAXes an hour, and the largest collection of super-computers on Earth. Few people realize that the NSA also has its own secret military force called the Central Security Service – with a massive fleet of ships, submarines, and aircraft that cover the globe (soaking up your messages, and those in other countries, like a sponge).

This intelligence-gathering eavesdropping force is composed of tens of thousands of people, and occupies fifty large buildings. It occupies an actual city (Fort Meade, Maryland) with 37,000 cars in its parking lot and 70,000 pieces of mail per day. Its police force has 700 uniformed officers.

Lawrence Wright is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who won the prize for a book he wrote on Al Qaeda. He was wiretapped after he interviewed Intelligence Chief Michael McConnell and confronted him over wiretapping and waterboarding, then wrote about it in a 15,000 word article in the the January 21, 2008 issue of The New Yorker. Every other major media outlet refused to print the story – including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Wright confronted McConnell in his interview with the fact that he had been wiretapped, and McConnell insisted that if this were true, Wright must have received a call from "some known outfit associated with terrorism." In fact, though, Wright had originated the call, FBI counter-terrorism agents visited him, and accused his daughter of calling terrorists when she was off at college and not even home at the time.

You’re being wiretapped – every phone call and email – and you’re doing nothing about it.