PETER SCHEER—-Tim Draper, the legendary venture capitalist (Tesla, Baidu, Yahoo), also dabbles in politics—albeit at a much lower rate of return. His latest foray into the political arena is a ballot initiative to subdivide California into six states of roughly equal size. This proposal faces serious hurdles, not least that the federal government would say […]
When mayors evade disclosure rules by using personal email accounts for city business, it is democracy that suffers. We’ll know soon if the courts, like the public, have lost patience.
For years government officials in California have known that their emails about official business are subject to disclosure as public records. Although mayors, city managers, supervisors and superintendents may not like this, the applicability of the public records law to email messages is settled. You will not be shocked to learn, however, that many government […]
US relaxes gag order, permitting Google, Facebook et al to disclose scope of NSA access. But what if the firms don’t know the extent of NSA access?
Ever since Edward Snowden began leaking classified documents about NSA surveillance, Google and other tech companies have wanted to reveal the extent of NSA’s access—pursuant to orders of the secret FISA Court—to their customers’ accounts. They have wanted to disclose specifics on NSA access not just because they care about transparency, but because they expected […]
Some government officials have been pushing the theory that journalists who write stories based on leaked classified documents—think Glenn Greenwald, for example—are engaging in the “fencing” of stolen property. Mike Rogers, the Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee, made this point yesterday when questioning FBI Director James Comey at a congressional hearing. Rogers asked,“So […]
For Google, Facebook et al, the best defense against NSA surveillance is not legal reform, but technology that forces the agency to come through the “front door”
Although America may be more divided, more politically and ideologically polarized, than at any time in the last 50 years, on at least one issue—the National Security Agency’s surveillance of phone and internet communications—there appears to be a near consensus of disapprobation. Everyone distrusts the NSA and wants to see its activities curbed. Democrats and […]
In a long-running test case about government transparency and public access to government data, the First Amendment Coalition recently won a big victory. The California Supreme Court sustained FAC’s claim that the State Bar—an arm of the judiciary that regulates lawyers—must disclose extensive data on applicants for admission to the Bar (minus their names and […]
Can a journalist “plead the fifth” to avoid having to name a confidential source? A federal judge say yes.
Several years ago, when journalists by the dozen were being threatened with jail for refusing to name their confidential sources, I wrote an article urging them to invoke the fifth amendment’s protection against self-incrimination–to use the fifth amendment to reinforce the first amendment-based “journalist’s privilege.” This idea hasn’t gotten much traction, until now: a federal judge […]
NSA may have adhered to legal rules, but legal rules can’t keep up with changes in surveillance technology
A year or two from now, when investigators have taken stock of all the revelations in the NSA records released by Edward Snowden, the verdict is likely to be that the exposed NSA surveillance activities were NOT unlawful. That isn’t to say the NSA’s scarfing up of email and phone call metadata filling acres of […]
In a few days the members of unions representing BART workers will complete their vote to approve a new contract—a collective bargaining agreement. The vote will finalize the agreement, making it legally binding on both the unions and on BART. And only then, when the ink has dried and the agreement is a fait accompli, […]
I am often asked whether Edward Snowden’s leaking of classified documents about NSA surveillance programs is protected by the first amendment. My answer is no, his handing over of classified information to reporters at The Guardian, the Washington Post and the New York Times enjoys no constitutional protection or privilege. Snowden is a source who […]