The Story of the Famous “Keith Case” That Curtailed President Nixon’s Warrantless Wiretapping: An Excerpt from Cyrus Farivar’s “Habeas Data”

The below is an excerpt from Cyrus Farivar’s new book, Habeas Data.

Richard Nixon was voted into office in November 1968 by just half a million votes, just months after both Senator Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., were assassinated. When he entered the White House in January 1969, President Nixon was met by a nation that was bitterly divided and viscerally hurting. By that point, the Vietnam War had been raging for nearly four years, with no end in sight. America had been paying the price in both treasure and blood: nearly 30,000 American lives had been lost from 1967 to 1968.

Cyrus Farivar

The dawn of the Nixon administration marked one of the high-water marks of mass surveillance in America. Even before Nixon, intelligence services were carrying out domestic surveillance operations dating back to the mid-1950s as a way to monitor and mitigate potential influence of communism or communist sympathizers. The intelligence community actively disrupted various civil rights groups through the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO). Other snooping efforts with more colorful names, like Project Shamrock, were designed to indiscriminately capture postal mail and telegram traffic. Others, like Project Minaret, intercepted the electronic communications of thousands of Americans—initially it was limited to antiwar activists, but by the time Nixon entered the White House, the list had grown to include senators, journalists, and even Muhammad Ali.

Those lists—and the programs themselves—would expand tremendously under Nixon. On April 30, 1970, Nixon announced the Cambodian Campaign, a military effort to strengthen the position of the South Vietnamese and capture Viet Cong matériel. The following day, students began striking in protest of this new policy to ramp up the Vietnam War. On May 4, four students were killed by members of the Ohio National Guard while protesting at Kent State University. Suddenly, Nixon’s interest in what the various surveillance programs of the intelligence agencies were—and how they could be expanded for his use—became all the more urgent.

Not three months later, in July 1970, Nixon signed off on the Huston Plan, which formalized and legalized covert mail opening and increased electronic surveillance, among other tactics. The president quickly rescinded his approval, but that didn’t stop the intelligence agencies from continuing what they had already been doing.

President Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, who just loved to illegally wiretap those dissidents ^_^

One surveillance case that preceded Nixon, but was ultimately championed by his attorney general, involved the wiretapping of dissidents. In September 1968, just over three months after the Omnibus act was signed, a small bomb went off in the CIA recruitment office at 450 Main Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Overnight, someone had placed a few sticks of dynamite nearby, which blew a sizeable hole in the sidewalk and damaged furniture, but did little else. No one was injured. Eventually, three men affiliated with the White Panthers leftist group were arrested and prosecuted for the crime.

As the case moved ahead in 1969 and 1970, prosecutors disclosed during a hearing that a phone conversation involving one of the defendants and a California-based Black Panther had been captured over a warrantless wiretap. As a trial date approached, defense attorneys pushed the government to disclose any electronic surveillance that was used against their clients. In an affidavit, Attorney General John Mitchell (one of Nixon’s most trusted colleagues) wrote that one of the suspects, Robert “Pun” Plamondon, was overheard on a wiretap that was “employed to gather intelligence information deemed necessary to protect the nation from attempts of domestic organizations to attack and subvert the existing structure of government.”

In other words, while under normal circumstances law enforcement would have to present a super-warrant application for a judge to sign off on the wiretap, the attorney general claimed a power, under the presumed mandate of national security, to be able to wiretap anyone unilaterally based on the power that stemmed from the Title III law. Put another way, under this logic, if Charles Katz had been perceived as a threat to national security, the FBI could have wiretapped the phone booth’s line directly rather than going through all the gymnastics of rigging up a microphone atop the phone booth.

The Ann Arbor case ran right into a buzz saw, which came in the form of then US District Judge Damon Keith. By the time he had been randomly assigned the case, Judge Keith had been a judge for only a few years. In fact, when he was tapped for a judgeship by President Lyndon Johnson, he was just one of a handful of federal African-American judges nationwide. In January 1971, Judge Keith came out strongly against the government and Mitchell’s entire legal theory.

“The Fourth Amendment protects a defendant from the evil of the uninvited ear.” – US District Judge Damon Keith

“An idea which seems to permeate much of the Government’s argument is that a dissident domestic organization is akin to an unfriendly foreign power that must be dealt with in the same fashion,” Judge Keith wrote in his decision. “There is a great danger in an argument of this nature, for it strikes at the very constitutional privileges and immunities that are inherent in United States citizenship.”

Reminding everyone of the language of the Katz decision, the judge recalled that “the Fourth Amendment protects a defendant from the evil of the uninvited ear.”

The Department of Justice appealed the case to the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld Judge Keith’s ruling. The appeals court famously found, in what came to be known as the Keith case (rather than its official and cumbersome name: United States v. United States District Court), that there was not “one written phrase” in the Constitution or statutes to support the Justice Department’s view. The government appealed up to the Supreme Court, which again, denied the government’s efforts.

“The price of lawful public dissent must not be a dread of subjection to an unchecked surveillance power,” Justice Lewis Powell wrote in the unanimous 8–0 opinion. One would think that would have closed the book on such wiretapping. But as we’ll see, the government continued to find innovative ways to circumvent the courts.

Learn more about Judge Damon Keith’s life story in a new, award winning documentary – Walk With Me: The Trials of Damon J. Keith, Directed and Produced by Jesse Nesser.

(Photo taken in 1965, Courtesy of WSU Press.) From Left: Michigan Supreme Court Justice Otis M. Smith, Damon J. Keith (who was a lawyer in private practice at the time of this photo, and did not become a District Court Judge until 1967), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Michigan Secretary of State Richard Austin.

The Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project #ASDPSP – Reports Back: Here’s #WhatWeFound In Sacramento

See Tracy Rosenberg at this year’s event on November 10! She will be on a panel with Lisa Rein and Daniel Rigmaiden on Saturday at this year’s San Francisco hackathon!

TICKETS ($50) – (Can’t afford it? Okay no problem. Just use the code “hackathoner” for 1/2 off! (Perhaps you can buy one at full price and then discount the rest? Or just use the discount for all of them! It’s up to you 🙂 – Yep – It’s on the honor system folks <3

Saturday Schedule & Evening Event Projects To Hack On

Regular & Discount Tickets Here

By Lisa Rein

These simple letter templates can compel the Police and Sheriff Departments of a given city to provide you with documentation regarding every type of surveillance equipment in existence for a given City (Police) and saCounty (Sheriff).

It’s a roundabout way of determining what surveillance equipment is being used on the public in a given city, but since it’s all we have, at least the #ASDPSP project will make it so much easier for journalists and the public to get their hands on this information.

In this third installment of our series, Tracy will help us understand more about what we found in Sacramento, and how do approach local politicians to put pressure on them to do something about it, by implementing a “surveillance policy framework.”

Here’s are the first two interviews of this series:

Interview with Oakland Privacy’s Tracy Rosenberg On The Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project

How a little “working group” stopped Oakland from becoming a mini-fusion center for the Department of Homeland Security.

Tracy Rosenberg, co-founder of the Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project, explains #whatwefound in #Sacramento using our project’s letter templates and Muckrock, an online platform for filing public records requests.

Aaron Swartz (above). The Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project helps journalists, researchers and anyone else who might be curious about what types of surveillance equipment are already being used by law enforcement in their towns, by providing letter templates for filing public records requests with that same aforementioned local law enforcement (Police and Sheriff Departments). Photo Credit: Quinn Norton.

The Police Surveillance Project at Aaron Swartz Day aims to empower journalists and citizen researchers with pre-written letters that use just the right language to compel a city’s police or sheriff departments to hand over the relevant documents.

There is much to be done once the evidence is in-hand, but getting that evidence can be half the battle. These letter templates make it easy to use Muckrock and quickly file a large set of public records requests to the Police and Sheriff Departments of a given city.

We recently added two new templates that include the use of facial recognition software, since it came out recently that Amazon has been literally giving away its facial recognition software to law enforcement. I explain how to use the letter templates here. There are 20 templates now; 10 for the Police Department and 10 for the Sheriff’s Department of any given city.

Once you get the information back on a given city, you can begin to determine exactly which types of surveillance equipment a city’s police and a county’s sheriff departments have already purchased. Then, gradually, you can bring attention to the existence of the equipment to the relevant City’s City Council, in order to start the process of implementing a “surveillance policy framework” in that town.

As we learned in an earlier interview with Tracy, Occupy activists learned these techniques in the process of finding out what the City of Oakland was using on its citizens during the #OccupyOakland protests several years ago. Once Oakland’s City Council were given evidence that the surveillance equipment existed, they could (eventually) do the right thing, and put a Surveillance Policy Framework in place regulating how it is allowed to be used.

Your town’s City Council could do the right thing too, but first you will probably have to provide them with proof, direct from the Police and Sheriff Departments themselves, that this kind of surveillance equipment even exists.

However, when you get the documents back, it’s important to make sure you really understand what you think you might have found. That’s what thus week’s interview is all about; understanding the documents you received back, so you can make a list and hand it over, with the supporting documentation, to your City Council members.

LR: Here’s a list of the equipment we recommend asking about with the letter templates for each in .doc & .pdf formats). It’s best to file a separate public records request for each kind of equipment.

The trick is knowing how to write the letters; and you have done that for us already. Thank you so much.

TR: My pleasure. As we discussed earlier, these letters cover most known basic equipment that your local city and county might be using, including: drones and flying over head cameras, license plate readers, policing predictive software, social media monitoring software, stingrays, and most recently, facial recognition software.

LR: Since I asked you to create a template to address what we just learned about Amazon’s Rekognition software, something the ACLU is very concerned about.

TR: Yes. Unfortunate but necessary.

LR: Why these pieces of equipment?

TR: We are asking about these pieces of equipment because we already know that there is a good chance that big police departments will probably have all of it. The smaller ones will at least have some of it. But you have to ask about all of it, because sometimes they are using it in secret, and you never know until you ask.

LR: We have already received word back from Sacramento. Let’s talk what we found in Sacramento, and you can tell us how we might go about getting that information to our Sacramento representatives.

Read more “The Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project #ASDPSP – Reports Back: Here’s #WhatWeFound In Sacramento”

Interview with Oakland Privacy’s Tracy Rosenberg On The Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project

See Tracy Rosenberg at this year’s event! She will be on a panel with Lisa Rein and Daniel Rigmaiden on Saturday at this year’s San Francisco hackathon!

TICKETS ($50) – (Can’t afford it? Okay no problem. Just use the code “hackathoner” for 1/2 off! (Perhaps you can buy one at full price and then discount the rest? Or just use the discount for all of them! It’s up to you 🙂 – Yep – It’s on the honor system folks <3

Saturday Schedule & Evening Event Projects To Hack On

Regular & Discount Tickets Here

This is the second of two interviews with Tracy. Here is the first interview, which is about how Oakland Privacy’s roots are based in the “Occupy Oakland Privacy Working Group”.

By Lisa Rein.

The Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project is all about developing a larger strategy for determining what police and sheriff departments have already purchased, and putting “surveillance policy frameworks” in place to monitor and regulate the use of that equipment against their residents.

The project first started during Aaron Swartz Day 2017’s Sunday hackathon. Before that event was even over, it was clear that it had been really successful and we were all very pumped and decided to just keep going on our projects, through till next year’s event.

Tracy Rosenberg of Oakland Privacy.

Aaron Swartz filed a lot of FOIA requests, and it made me want to start a project at the hackathon that would continue the tradition. (Note: FOIAs are “Freedom of Information Act Requests – and are Federal. This article discusses “public records requests” at the local, or municipal level.)

To that end, I met in with Tracy Rosenberg, of Oakland Privacy, and Daniel Rigmaiden (who revealed the Stingray to the world).

Tracy has been teaching me about how powerful the information obtained from public records requests can be, because it is literally the police or sheriff department saying, themselves, “Yup. We have this piece of equipment. Here is our purchase receipt.” (For example.)

However, writing the letters and filing the requests can be time consuming, even with systems like Muckrock, that vastly improve the process. So, our first idea was to automate the process of using Muckrock, so someone could fill out a form that would connect to Muckrock seamlessly. It turned out though, that except for the automation, Muckrock already had everything we needed. So, we decided to use Muckrock, and focus on saving folks time by providing all of the letters ahead of time for every single piece of equipment (including requesting details about how the data from these devices was collected and stored).

Tracy wrote up all the letters ahead of time, turning the job of writing and submitting 18 public records requests into a quick cut and paste job. Together, we filed together 18 public records requests; 9 to the City of Sacramento and 9 to the county of Sacramento, in just under over two hours, but it was our first time. (Here’s what we found in Sacramento.)Here are our letter templates.)

In the meantime, I took a few moments to talk to Tracy about the implications of filing public records requests, and how the information obtained from them eventually led to a first of its kind Privacy Commission and surveillance policy framework, in Oakland, California.

Lisa Rein: First, let’s talk about the kinds of information we can uncover with public records requests

Tracy Rosenberg: We get a pretty clear example of the kinds of things that we can find out using this latest find about license plate readers as an example.

Read more “Interview with Oakland Privacy’s Tracy Rosenberg On The Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project”

Time for The Fifth Annual Aaron Swartz Day and International Hackathon, Saturday in San Francisco

what did Aaron do to get in so much trouble? Well, you’re not going to believe this:

Aaron downloaded a bunch of journal articles over an open network at MIT.

No, seriously. That’s what he did.

By Lisa Rein 

I’m here to tell you about this weekend’s hackathon and celebratory festivities, and also explain a few things about how these things all weave in and out of our existing MONDO-world. It’s a TRIP.

I co-founded this event with Brewster Kahle, after Aaron’s death, in 2013. The Aaron Swartz Day and International Hackathon is an annual event that encompasses an entire weekend — celebrating Aaron’s life and providing yearly updates for many of Aaron’s collaborative projects that are still thriving today.

Who was Aaron Swartz? Well, the Aaron Swartz that I knew really well was just a 15 year old kid that helped me do my job better at Creative Commons, when I was its Technical Architect, working with Lawrence Lessig, in 2001-2002. We were using RSS news feeds to describe copyright licenses.

Yeah. It’s as boring as it sounds, and that’s why people don’t think about it unless they have to. Our job was to make it easy for them to insert some information about their Creative Commons license in the existing places — metadata fields in a .jpg file, or an mp3 file, etc. Aaron and Matt Haughey came up with the idea of asking a series of questions that help people determine what license they want, which turned out to be the hard part for artists. (Here’s a table I have a actually that makes that choice a bit easier.)

But I digress…

Aaron allowed me to be successful in my Creative Commons “mission” from Lawrence Lessig. We used RSS to describe copyright law, and, as it happened, so much more. It happened. Perfectly. Because Aaron knew just how to do it, and Lawrence and I let him, even though he was 15 years old.

Lisa Rein, Aaron Swartz, and Lawrence Lessig, at the Creative Commons launch, in December 2002.

Next, at 16 or so, Aaron founded the Open Library, with Brewster Kahle, the Founder, and Digital Librarian, at the Internet Archive. The Internet Archive keeps an archive of the entire Web in a thing called The WayBack Machine, and also has an incredible TV Archive, that it’s also been doing AI projects with. There’s even a 78 Record Archive,software archive, and much more.

Brewster Kahle

I’ve also worked with Brewster digitizing some of the Timothy Leary Archives, since I am Timothy’s Digital Librarian, and now, also, Chelsea Manning’s Archivist. (Not to be confused with Michael Horowitz, who is Timothy Leary’s Archivist. Michael and I collaborate on the Timothy Leary Archives and Michael’s Own Archives, from that time period. Over these last two years, since I’ve been Chelsea’s Archivist, he’s given me oodles of excellent advice.

The Open Library, which is one of the projects people can hack on at the hackathon this year, started out small, although its goals were quite large: aspiring to create “a web page for every book.” Now, just over ten years later (Started circa 2007 by Aaron), Open Library is the world’s free digital library with over 2M public domain books and another 500k+ books available to be borrowed and read in the browser. Even when the Open Library itself doesn’t have a digital copy, it can connect readers to libraries that do have copies. So far, Open Library has collected information about over 25M book records.

After the Open Library, Aaron went to Stanford for a semester, dropped out and founded a Y-combinator startup, that later was spun into Reddit. Reddit was bought by Conde Nast, which wasn’t quite Aaron’s style, so he left. He was an Ethics Fellow at Harvard when the famous altercation took place.

So, what did Aaron do to get in so much trouble? Well, you’re not going to believe this:

Aaron downloaded a bunch of journal articles over an open network at MIT.

No, seriously. That’s what he did.

The actions that the U.S. government took against Aaron: making up hacking charges, stressing him out with surveillance and concern that those he loved would be interrogated as witnesses in his case. It seems like it all made him feel like his life, and his entire future, was somehow ruined.

To be clear: we are still finding out new information about how they drove him over the edge, but here’s the best explanation of how the charges were pretty ridiculous.

He was kind of a genius and had a lot of projects that are still going. The Aaron Swartz Day community just worked hard to secure Chelsea Manning’s release — and she is our guest speaker.

Chelsea E. Manning

TICKETS (Use the Promotional Code “MONDO” & save $35.)

How Aaron Swartz Day started:

It was on the eve of the San Francisco Memorial for Aaron, that Brewster, myself, and several others that night all had the same idea: Let’s keep up the momentum from all of this inspired action with some kind of event every year. So, for five years going now, we gather in November for an entire weekend of events on what would have been his birthday weekend. There are two goals. One is raising awareness about what happened to him — in order to protect other innovative students from government over prosecution — and future “hackers” that are exemplifying the true nature of curiosity and improvement. The other is to draw attention to his projects that are still going strong, such as SecureDrop and the Open Library.

At the same time, in the months that followed, memorial hackathons started popping up all over the world. We approached Yan Zhu, a friend of Aaron’s who was organizing them, about combining forces in November, and she agreed.

As Brewster and I began to create the first event (2013), many people had the same requirement: that the event be forward-thinking and uplifting, should not be sad or pessimistic, or dwell on what we would have done, had we known — except to the extent where doing so might help us protect others in the future.

After a few years of these events, we decided to step it up a notch, and try to think of ways that we could really use our event to make a difference. So, Brewster and I decided we would reach out to Chelsea, see if we could archive her writings or letters or something, if she’d be up for it, and just basically try to find different creative ways to try to make Chelsea Manning’s life in prison a little more livable.

Both Chelsea and Aaron stood up for the ideals of transparency and accountability. Ideals that Brewster and myself had taught them were so important. Yet, when Chelsea and Aaron stood up for these ideals, they were crushed by the full weight of the government.

There’s more to this than first meets the eye. Our community has always felt bad about not being able to do more to help Aaron. We wish we would have pressed him further about his case, when he was reluctant to discuss it. We wish we would have done this… We wish we would have tried that. We all drive ourselves crazy thinking these thoughts, still, to this day.

All of us that knew Aaron told each other privately that we would have done anything to help him, had we realized the severity of the situation. When I heard Chelsea’s voice over the phone, I realized it was happening again. Except we had a chance this time; Chelsea was still alive, and we could still save her.

The question was, what could we really do? We didn’t know yet – but I knew that if I could find out what she needed, our entire community was ready and willing to help her. So, we decided that we would start by writing her and ask her if she’d like to prepare a statement for Aaron Swartz Day. She accepted. (2015 Statement) (2016 Statement).

The rest, as they say, is history.

That’s why this year’s event is especially incredible: because Chelsea Manning is attending in person, after only being able to send us statements from afar, in prison, for two years running. Her speaking to us in person, as a free woman, is definitely nothing less than a dream come true.

 

Evening Program of Speakers with special guest Chelsea Manning

Saturday, after the San Francisco hackathon, at 6pm, there will be a reception and we will toast to our community’s accomplishments this year! The program upstairs will begin promptly at 7:30 pm. I’ve just added 50 tickets just for you Mondo 2000 readers! When you go to buy tickets enter the promotional code “MONDO” to get a $35 discount off of the $75 ticket price 🙂

Each of this year’s evening event speakers was asked to attend for a very specific reason. Some speakers knew Aaron and worked with him directly, others were inspired by him, or were working on projects inspired by him (such as Barrett Brown’s Pursuance Project). Barrett Brown is fresh out of prison and ready to stir up more folks to become aware of their surroundings.

Barrett Brown

Other speakers, such as Chelsea Manning, we know Aaron “gushed about” and thought was “so cool.” Jason Leopold is going to teach us about FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) and about the FOIA requests that Aaron submitted. Also Jason just got a new dump of files from the Secret Service that look interesting. It’s almost as if we were given a present before the event. Daniel Rigmaiden will be there, who exposed the Stingray from prison, in the course of representing himself, once he was able to determine that the Feds had used a Stingray on him illegally, in order to determine his location.

Here is the complete line-up of speakers with their bios:

Chelsea Manning – Network Security Expert, Transparency Advocate

Chelsea E. Manning is a network security expert, whistleblower, and former U.S. Army intelligence analyst. While serving 7 years of an unprecedented 35 year sentence for a high-profile leak of government documents, she became a prominent and vocal advocate for government transparency and transgender rights, both on Twitter and through her op-ed columns for The Guardian and The New York Times. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area, where she writes about technology, artificial intelligence, and human rights.

Lisa Rein – Chelsea Manning’s Archivist, Co-founder, Aaron Swartz  Day & Creative Commons

Lisa Rein is Chelsea Manning’s archivist, and ran her @xychelsea Twitter account from December 2015 – May 2017. She is a co-founder of Creative Commons, where she worked with Aaron Swartz on its technical specification, when he was only 15. She is a writer, musician and technology consultant, and lectures for San Francisco State University’s BECA department. Lisa is the Digital Librarian for the Dr. Timothy Leary Futique Trust.

Daniel Rigmaiden – Transparency Advocate

Daniel Rigmaiden became a government transparency advocate after U.S. law enforcement used a secret cell phone surveillance device to locate him inside his home. The device, often called a “Stingray,” simulates a cell tower and tricks cell phones into connecting to a law enforcement controlled cellular network used to identify, locate, and sometimes collect the communications content of cell phone users. Before Rigmaiden brought Stingrays into the public spotlight in 2011, law enforcement concealed use of the device from judges, defense attorneys and defendants, and would typically not obtain a proper warrant before deploying the device.

Barrett Brown – Journalist, Activist, and Founder of the Pursuance Project

Barrett Brown is a writer and anarchist activist. His work has appeared in Vanity Fair, the Guardian, The Intercept, Huffington Post, New York Press, Skeptic, The Daily Beast, al-Jazeera, and dozens of other outlets. In 2009 he founded Project PM, a distributed think-tank, which was later re-purposed to oversee a crowd-sourced investigation into the private espionage industry and the intelligence community at large via e-mails stolen from federal contractors and other sources. In 2011 and 2012 he worked with Anonymous on campaigns involving the Tunisian revolution, government misconduct, and other issues. In mid-2012 he was arrested and later sentenced to four years in federal prison on charges stemming from his investigations and work with Anonymous. While imprisoned, he won the National Magazine Award for his column, The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Prison. Upon his release, in late 2016, he began work on the Pursuance System, a platform for mass civic engagement and coordinated opposition. His third book, a memoir/manifesto, will be released in 2018 by Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux.

Jason Leopold, Senior Investigative Reporter, Buzzfeed News

Jason Leopold is an Emmy-nominated investigative reporter on the BuzzFeed News Investigative Team. Leopold’s reporting and aggressive use of the Freedom of Information Act has been profiled by dozens of media outlets, including a 2015 front-page story in The New York Times. Politico referred to Leopold in 2015 as “perhaps the most prolific Freedom of Information requester.” That year, Leopold, dubbed a ‘FOIA terrorist’ by the US government testified before Congress about FOIA (PDF) (Video). In 2016, Leopold was awarded the FOI award from Investigative Reporters & Editors and was inducted into the National Freedom of Information Hall of Fame by the Newseum Institute and the First Amendment Center.

Jennifer Helsby, Lead Developer, SecureDrop (Freedom of the Press Foundation)

Jennifer is Lead Developer of SecureDrop. Prior to joining FPF, she was a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Data Science and Public Policy at the University of Chicago, where she worked on applying machine learning methods to problems in public policy. Jennifer is also the CTO and co-founder of Lucy Parsons Labs, a non-profit that focuses on police accountability and surveillance oversight. In a former life, she studied the large scale structure of the universe, and received her Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of Chicago in 2015.

Gabriella Coleman – Hacker Anthropologist, Author, Researcher, Educator

Gabriella (Biella) Coleman holds the Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy at McGill University. Trained as an anthropologist, her scholarship explores the politics and cultures of hacking, with a focus on the sociopolitical implications of the free software movement and the digital protest ensemble Anonymous. She has authored two books, Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking (Princeton University Press, 2012) and Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous (Verso, 2014).

Caroline Sinders – Researcher/Designer, Wikimedia Foundation

Caroline Sinders is a machine learning designer/user researcher, artist. For the past few years, she has been focusing on the intersections of natural language processing, artificial intelligence, abuse, online harassment and politics in digital, conversational spaces. Caroline is a designer and researcher at the Wikimedia Foundation, and a Creative Dissent fellow with YBCA. She holds a masters from New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program from New York University.

Brewster Kahle, Founder & Digital Librarian, Internet Archive

Brewster Kahle has spent his career intent on a singular focus: providing Universal Access to All Knowledge. He is the founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive, which now preserves 20 petabytes of data – the books, Web pages, music, television, and software of our cultural heritage, working with more than 400 library and university partners to create a digital library, accessible to all.

Steve Phillips, Project Manager, Pursuance Project

Steve Phillips is a programmer, philosopher, and cypherpunk, and is currently the Project Manager of Barrett Brown’s Pursuance Project. In 2010, after double-majoring in mathematics and philosophy at UC Santa Barbara, Steve co-founded Santa Barbara Hackerspace. In 2012, in response to his concerns over rumored mass surveillance, he created his first secure application, Cloakcast. And in 2015, he spoke at the DEF CON hacker conference, where he presented CrypTag. Steve has written over 1,000,000 words of philosophy culminating in a new philosophical methodology, Executable Philosophy.

Mek Karpeles, Citizen of the World, Internet Archive

Mek is a citizen of the world at the Internet Archive. His life mission is to organize a living map of the world’s knowledge. With it, he aspires to empower every person to overcome oppression, find and create opportunity, and reach their fullest potential to do good. Mek’s favorite media includes non-fiction books and academic journals — tools to educate the future — which he proudly helps make available through his work on Open Library.

TICKETS HERE

Starting this year: Endless Privacy Hackathons

The San Francisco Hackathon is leading the way for the hackathons around the world. This year, we are integrating remote hackers from all over the world to work on our projects, and we are going to stay organized, so we can keep hacking on them in the days and weeks to come.

Here are just some of this year’s technology projects:

SecureDrop is an open-source whistleblower submission system managed by Freedom of the Press Foundation and originally created by Kevin Poulsen and Aaron Swartz.  The goal of SecureDrop is to help media organizations simplify the process of securely accepting documents from anonymous sources. Dozens of news organizations, including:  The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, Vice, The Guardian, AP, The Intercept, BuzzFeed and Forbes, are now running SecureDrop servers to communicate securely with sources.

The Pursuance System software enables you to create a pursuance (which is a sort of organization), invite people to that pursuance (with the level of permissions and privileges that you choose), assign those people tasks (manually, or automatically based on their skill set!), brainstorm and discuss what needs to be done.

Next, you’ll be rapidly recording exciting ideas or strategies in an actionable format (namely as tasks), share files and documents, be notified when relevant events occur (e.g., you are assigned a task or mentioned), and effectively get help from others. Here’s an interview with Barrett Brown and Steve Phillips explaining Pursuance in more detail.

OpenArchive is a free, open source application for android, available on the Google Play Store that enables you to send your mobile media directly to the Internet Archive over Tor (Orbot), and choose what metadata and Creative Commons license to include with it. The primary goal of the app is to empower the user to easily archive photos, video and audio from their mobile device to a secure, trustworthy, and remote storage service.

Come join members of the Open Library team, and work directly with them on Sunday, November 5th and together we’ll turn your ideas and suggestions into empowerment for an international audience.

Open Library is the world’s free digital library with over 2M public domain books and another 500k+ books available to be borrowed and read in the browser. Started circa 2007 by Aaron, the vision of Open Library is to be an open wiki catalog of every work ever published. So far, Open Library has collected information about over 25M book records, empowering readers with data to locate books even when Open Library doesn’t have a digital copy. Over 100,000 readers borrow books on Open Library each month, but there’s a lot we aspire to do to make our library experience more accessible and useful to readers world-wide.

Addendum

Police Surveillance Equipment In Your Town 101

Right now, citizens have to play a guessing game with Law Enforcement in their town. Police Departments are not required to have a policy on the purchase and use of surveillance equipment unless there is public outcry for them to do so. At Aaron Swartz Day this year, we aim to provide a public outcry model, automate the process for filing multiple public records requests, asking for every known variation of surveillance equipment, providing a template for the requests, and also another template to demand that your city government implement a policy regarding how surveillance is used on the citizens of any given town. Then, we’re going to split up in to “follow up groups,” whose job it is to keep making calls and sending emails until the local governments are taking action.

Efforts are in the final stages in both Oakland and Berkeley, and both should have laws by the end of the year. So, we’re going to use them as examples for the rest of the country.

There are other Projects to Hack On too!

 

The Medium is the Message and the Message is Voyeurism (1994)

by R.U. Sirius & St. Jude (Wired magazine, 1994)

She’s permed, chubby, hose ‘n’ heels… Mom. She stands up when Phil or Sally Jessy or Oprah aims the microphone. Her voice rises. Her face tumesces. She’s outraged by somebody’s sexual behavior. Oprah’s eyes register $$ – the big score. This is the very essence of daytime talk TV.

In fact, this G-rated money shot is set up for you many times every single weekday. It works like this: The sacrificial “guest” is somehow off-center – not quite your married missionary heterosexual. The host announces the deviant’s category – say, “Men Who Love Shoes Too Much” – then turns to the camera and wonders gravely about this group’s impact on society, arming the audience for attack. Then audience and guest have it out over whether or not the guest should exist. After an hour, the shoefucker is led off, back to the Green Room, bleeding profusely. Then everyone is thanked. Commercials play. Credits roll. I imagine cigarettes being lit all around by audience, guest, and host – as most shows seem to build, then climax.

The ritual being observed here on talk television, and on television at large, is a mapping of classic small-town dynamics onto the media global village. Remember the small town – that tiny-minded, busy-bodied, bully-fisted little burg? No you don’t, because your grandpappy scraped it off his shoes in ought-six so he could get himself a life.

In this century the urban drift became a stampede. Why? The bright lights were calling, but your ancestors and mine were ejected out of Hickwad by the peer pressure.

I Get to Be Me 

Now, in the TV global village, rites based on small-town traditions like “conform-or-die,” “shut-up-and-take-it,” and “you’ll-braise-in-eternal-torment” are being celebrated just like in the old days. Now the targets offer themselves freely, cheerful as volcano virgins, because these bad boys and girls – criminals, perverts, or cultural dissidents – are working for their camera time.

Camera time is the irresistible bait of a media culture. The victims get to be themselves, get to flaunt being themselves – can even try to make converts, before the little red light goes out. After the hatefest, lighting up, the armchair lynchmob can catch the cleanup actions: see the arrests on Fox’s Cops, follow the trial on Court TV and get the smirking denouement on A Current Affair. Read more “The Medium is the Message and the Message is Voyeurism (1994)”