Upskirting Privacy

Here’s Mike Rogers – the chair of the House Intelligence Committee – explaining to a respected law professor about how privacy works.

Here’s a rough transcription of the relevant portion:

Rogers: I would argue the fact that we haven’t had any complaints come forward with any specificity arguing that their privacy has been violated, clearly indicates, in ten years, clearly indicates that something must be doing right. Somebody must be doing something exactly right.

Vladeck: But who would be complaining?

Rogers: Somebody who’s privacy was violated. You can’t have your privacy violated if you don’t know your privacy is violated.

Vladeck: I disagree with that. If a tree falls in the forest, it makes a noise whether you’re there to see it or not.

Rogers: Well that’s a new interesting standard in the law. We’re going to have this conversation… but we’re going to have wine, because that’s going to get a lot more interesting…

Now for something substantially related:

A federal air marshal was arrested Thursday morning at Nashville International Airport after being caught taking multiple upskirt pictures of female passengers boarding a plane, police said.

A witness spotted 28-year-old Adam Bartsch, who was on duty, taking pictures with his cell phone underneath women’s dresses, police said. The witness grabbed Bartsch’s phone and notified a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, a police report said.

Airport police removed Bartsch from the flight and took him into custody.

According to the police report, Bartsch said he snapped 10 to 12 inappropriate pictures, something he said he had done before. He was charged with disorderly conduct and held on $10,000 bail.

The Transportation Security Administration said it is assisting authorities with the investigation.

“TSA does not tolerate criminal behavior. The agency immediately removed this individual from his current duties and is in the process of suspending or terminating his employment.”

Why shouldn’t this guy be able to use the same defense? The women who were photographed weren’t complaining. How can we say that their privacy had been violated? Your honor, this air marshal’s only crime was that he was caught.

Reforming Surveillance Authorities

The President’s press conference last week was a disaster by most measures. Conor Friedersdorf has a good tit-for-tat followup. The President essentially denied the patriotism of a man who threw his life away to tell his fellow Americans about how their rights are being systematically violated, then seemed to strongly imply that a rigorous and responsible debate about surveillance was about to spring forth before NSA leaks ruined it. Tough sell, to say the least.

I chatted with Jim Harper about avenues for reforming these broad surveillance powers and a new brief filed by the Cato Institute in support of the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s case against the feds.

NSA’s Bulk Data Collection on the Defensive

I chatted with Justin Amash today about NSA bulk surveillance of Americans and the reaction to his struggle to rein in the agency. Here’s the video.

Spoilers below:

  • He thinks James Clapper should be prosecuted for lying to Congress in March.
  • He thinks Chris Christie’s hamfisted (couldn’t resist) attack on libertarian Republicans is pointless.
  • He doesn’t necessarily agree that the NSA leaker shouldn’t be prosecuted, which his colleague Thomas Massie has suggested.
  • The NSA: Future Crime Unit

    The country that would become the United States fought a revolution to turn back the kinds of abuses that had made King George so despised. One of those abuses was the use of “general warrants,” a kind of police authorization that required no specific goal or purpose. The National Security Agency, in vacuuming up so much of Americans’ communications, has effectively recreated the general warrant. Here’s Jim Harper discussing the implications of maintaining vast databases of Americans’ communications without cause.

    Thanks, Verizon!

    Yesterday I got this handy reminder from Verizon to update my phone so I can more easily send everything up into their cloud. Thanks, guys! Talk about bad timing.