Declan McCullagh | 23 Apr 23:21 2008

Politicians push for mandatory data retention laws, bipartisanly [priv]

[Did everyone really think this was over? If nothing else, data 
retention proponents have taken a long-term view; here's something I 
wrote in 2005 about the beginnings of the DR push: --Declan]

FBI, politicos renew push for ISP data retention laws
By Declan McCullagh (declan <at>

WASHINGTON--The FBI and multiple members of Congress said on Wednesday 
that Internet service providers must be legally required to keep records 
of their users' activities for later review by police.

Their suggestions for mandatory data retention revive a push for 
potentially sweeping federal laws--which civil libertarians oppose--that 
flagged last year after the resignation of Attorney General Alberto 
Gonzales, the idea's most prominent proponent.

FBI Director Robert Mueller told a House of Representatives committee 
that Internet service providers should be required to keep records of 
users' activities for two years.

Also lending their support for data retention were Rep. Ric Keller, 
R-Fla., who said that Internet chat rooms were crammed with sexual 
predators, and Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the senior Republican on the 
House Judiciary committee and a previous data retention enthusiast. Rep. 
John Conyers, the senior Democrat and chairman, added that any proposed 
data retention legislation submitted by the FBI "would be most welcome."

(Continue reading)

Declan McCullagh | 31 Jan 19:46 2008

Who'd make the most technology-friendly president? Discuss. [econ]

The February 5 primaries are just a few days away, so it seems timely to 
send some links around.

First, I'm doing a live chat at about technology, politics, and 
who would make the best president when viewed through that lens. It 
starts at 11am PT/2pm ET today, and here's the link:

Second, we've asked the presidential candidates questions about things 
like the DMCA, Net neutrality, retroactive liability for telcom 
companies, and Real ID. Their responses posted are here:

And here's a kind of offbeat story about a hardy band of Googlers 
(current and former employees) who braved the New Hampshire winter to 
gather there and stump for Ron Paul:

Finally, a link to a tongue-in-cheek survey we did of voters and their 
views on Net Neutrality:

Politech mailing list
Archived at
Moderated by Declan McCullagh (

Declan McCullagh | 15 Dec 03:42 2007

Judge rules defendant can't be forced to divulge PGP passphrase [priv]

I haven't been very prolific with Politech recently, in part because I'm 
  trying to send out only more important items rather than routine news 
stories. This one meets the importance test.

Text of article:

First three grafs:

   A federal judge in Vermont has ruled that prosecutors can't force a
   criminal defendant accused of having illegal images on his hard drive
   to divulge his PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) passphrase.

   U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerome Niedermeier ruled that a man charged with
   transporting child pornography on his laptop across the Canadian
   border has a Fifth Amendment right not to turn over the
   passphrase to prosecutors. The Fifth Amendment protects the right
   to avoid self-incrimination.

   Niedermeier tossed out a grand jury's subpoena that directed Sebastien
   Boucher to provide "any passwords" used with the Alienware
   laptop. "Compelling Boucher to enter the password forces him to
   produce evidence that could be used to incriminate him," the judge
   wrote in an order dated November 29 that went unnoticed until this
   week. "Producing the password, as if it were a key to a locked
   container, forces Boucher to produce the contents of his laptop."

Link to court opinion:

(Continue reading)

Declan McCullagh | 26 Nov 11:17 2007

ITU botnet paper published in draft form, comments requested [priv]

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: ITU botnet mitigation toolkit - draft background paper published
Date: Wed, 21 Nov 2007 17:45:16 -0800
From: suresh <at> (Suresh Ramasubramanian)
To: declan <at>
CC: dave <at>

Dave and Declan

The ITU botnet toolkit is an ITU-D effort to bring together different
different sets of best practices and different existing efforts in botnet
mitigation and general spam / cybersecurity work that focuses on botnet
mitigation, and create a practical implementation of these focused on
developing countries.

The toolkit website is at

A background paper on the toolkit (still draft) is at

The background paper, once published, will form the basis of at least two
nationwide pilot projects over 2008, involving local, regional and
international groups from government, industry, independent researchers,
etc. The first is going to be in Malaysia in association with the Malaysian
government, in 1Q2008.

The background paper is structured to provide a short "toolkit" of
(Continue reading)

Declan McCullagh | 26 Nov 11:15 2007

David Burt and his Filtering Facts Web site are back [fs]

David Burt is a longtime fan (some would say apologist) for filtering 
software. See our discussions from 2001:


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Filtering Facts is back
Date: Sun, 25 Nov 2007 20:25:50 -0800
From: David Burt <david_burt <at>>
To: declan <at>

Filtering Facts is back on the web after a too long absence.  In keeping
with my long association with filtering software, I have completely
reconstituted  as both a deep reference site of all
things related to filtering software, as well as a daily blog of reporting
on Internet filtering and Internet safety.  Among the material in the new
website are:

--  Legal page ( )

Extensive information on all U.S. legal cases involving filtering (CIPA,
CDA, COPA, etc.) with hundreds of legal documents, as well as the text and
interpretation of all US state and federal laws involving filtering.

-- Filter Effectiveness Tests page ( )

A comprehensive index of nearly 100 individual product tests conducted by
(Continue reading)

Declan McCullagh | 2 Nov 12:39 2007

FTC Internet advertising summit in Washington this week [priv]

So the FTC is holding a two-day workshop on Internet advertising in 
Washington this week:

This is important because these workshops often, but not always, precede 
formal regulations. I'm speaking on the 9am panel if you're interested; 
it is webcast.

What's happened in the last few days is a bunch of announcements 
including a call for a "Do Not Target" list to be set up by the FTC that 
companies would be "required" to abide by upon pain of federal sanction:

And some of the pro-regulatory/anti-advertising types are calling for a 
formal investigation of Google, Microsoft, AOL, and Yahoo's data 
collection practices, a new FTC task force to be created, and an inquiry 
into target marketing by Facebook and

My own view (not exactly pro-regulatory) is here:

Politech mailing list
Archived at
Moderated by Declan McCullagh (

Declan McCullagh | 11 Oct 10:40 2007

Hamline University student suspended after pro-gun rights email [fs]

I wrote about this case today here:

What's odd are the strange justifications the university gave. I
described my interaction with Hamline officials in my article.


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: FIRE News: Hamline University Student Suspended After
Advocating Concealed Carry for Students
From: Robert Shibley
To: <declan <at>>

Dear Mr. McCullagh:

Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, has suspended a student after
he sent an e-mail suggesting that the Virginia Tech massacre might have
been stopped if students had been allowed to carry concealed weapons on
campus. Student Troy Scheffler is now required to undergo a mandatory
"mental health evaluation" before being allowed to return to school.
Scheffler, who was suspended without due process just two days after
sending the e-mail, has turned to FIRE for help.

FIRE's full press release on this case appears below, but if your e-mail
client does not support HTML, you can view a link-rich version at

I would be happy to answer any questions you may have. You can reach me
by replying to this e-mail or by calling the number below.
(Continue reading)

Declan McCullagh | 22 Sep 00:33 2007

MIT student picking up friend at airport nearly shot, charged with "infernal machine" crime [fs]

An MIT student named Star Simpson was apparently picking up a friend at 
Boston Logan airport and wore a sweatshirt with a breadboard and some 
LEDs and a 9V battery. She had created it for a student career day.

Big mistake. She was nearly killed by police (armed with semiautomatic 
weapons that some jurisdictions prevent law-abiding Americans from 
owning) who surrounded her. State Police Maj. Scott Pare actually told 
the press that she was "extremely lucky she followed the instructions or 
deadly force would have been used... She's lucky to be in a cell as 
opposed to the morgue."

Star was charged with violating the state's hoax device/infernal machine 
law, which shows you just how officious -- and perhaps even crazed -- 
police and prosecutors are nowadays. That law provides up to five years 
in prison.

As I wrote back in February after the Aqua Teen Hunger Force incident, 
for prosecutors to win their case, they must prove that (1) Star 
transported the LED-sweatshirt (2) "with the intent to cause anxiety, 
unrest, fear or personal discomfort." (3) Also, a person must 
"reasonably" believe that the LED-sweatshirt was (4) a "device for 
endangering life or doing unusual damage to property, or both, by fire 
or explosion." See:

Obviously the state will lose this case, but filing charges is more 
politically convenient than admitting the cops made an error, or at the 
very least admitting that the student was just wearing a harmless 
sweatshirt. Here are the "infernal machine" cases in which the state 
*did* win -- when the devices actually were dangerous:
(Continue reading)

Declan McCullagh | 21 Sep 23:16 2007

Paul Levy: Politicians, infomercial kings try to stifle anonymous Internet speech [fs]

Like Paul, I'm having a hard time figuring out which is more loathsome: 
a censorial politician or a a censorial informercial king. I think it's 
the politician, who's named Judy Gatelli, but it is a tough choice 
between two exceptionally well-qualified candidates.

Ms. Gatelli's email address is jgatelli <at>


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: New attacks on the right to speak anonymously on the Internet
Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2007 13:21:26 -0400
From: Paul Levy <plevy <at>>
To: <declan <at>>

I am writing to call your attention to two new Internet anonymity cases
we have taken on.  I am having trouble figuring out which plaintiff's
claims I find more offensive.

In one case, the President of the Scranton City Council has filed suit
against about ninety of her constituents for defamation and
"infliction of emotional distress" for calling her names on a
local Internet message board (for example, they call her a Nazi for
allegedly mistreating citizen speakers during publicly televised council
meetings, or they say "she is not for the people, she is for
herself.") We have filed in opposition to her motion to compel
disclosure of the critics' names.

In the other case, the "Video Professor," a TV infomercial king who
sells lessons on computer use, is suing a hundred former students for
(Continue reading)

Declan McCullagh | 21 Sep 23:10 2007

Colorado sheriff creates roadblock so private firm can demand DNA blood samples [priv]

I've been behind on Politech recently, but this story made me irritated 
enough to catch up on things.

The Gilpin County Sheriff's Office in Colorado, a rural area not that 
far west of Denver, recently set up a highway checkpoint where motorists 
were stopped and, at least in some cases, not allowed to leave until 
they gave breath, blood, and saliva samples for the benefit of a private 
research firm. A report by Ernie Hancock says the National Highway 
Traffic Safety Administration was involved as well.

A Denver Post article is here:


The Post says the private organization in question is the Pacific 
Institute for Research and Evaluation, or PIRE, in Calverton, MD. Their 
Web site seems to be down but can be viewed here:

This seems to be a fine opportunity for Politech readers to let PIRE 
executives and Gilpin County supervisors know what they think about 
police abusing their authority at the demand of a private research firm.

Gilpin County email addresses:
rbaker <at>, scate <at>, pubcomment <at>
PIRE email addresses: langevin <at>, info <at>, mblackston <at>
(Continue reading)

Declan McCullagh | 17 Aug 09:42 2007

Federal police will gain access to military spy satellites [priv]

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, below, that Homeland 
Security and other federal police will gain access to military spy 

This is akin to what I wrote about last year, which is police agencies 
trying to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for surveillance over U.S. 

Both raise important privacy concerns. But if the people being 
surveilled are walking or driving on a public street, current precedent 
says police surveillance, even aggressive police surveillance, is just 


U.S. to Expand Domestic Use Of Spy Satellites
August 15, 2007; Page A1

The U.S.'s top intelligence official has greatly expanded the range of 
federal and local authorities who can get access to information from the 
nation's vast network of spy satellites in the U.S.

The decision, made three months ago by Director of National Intelligence 
Michael McConnell, places for the first time some of the U.S.'s most 
(Continue reading)