Re Fwd Executive Privilege (TTYL)

Remember the blog post from June where we raised the question: Is Rove the most prolific emailer of all time? Well, we might finally get our reply.

Though the Bush administration has asserted executive privilege over the emails from aides and officials, U.S. magistrate judge urged a federal judge last week to order the White House to preserve the documents in question. Judge John M. Facciola said that the order must be made to ensure that the White House does not destroy the backup tapes of the emails.

The order was issued as part of lawsuit that the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed against the White House stemming from the withholding of emails sent between March 2003 and October 2005. The emails had been requested through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The White House has 10 days to file an objection before U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. can issue the official order.

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Published in: on October 23, 2007 at 11:12 am Comments Off on Re Fwd Executive Privilege (TTYL)

Renewed Vigilance

The Office of Homeland Security was hoping the title of this post would refer to the new level of surveillance they would be making available to state and local law enforcement agencies. Intelligence satellites, which had previously been available domestically only for meteorological purposes, were slated to become accessible through a new program to be launched October 1. Though Congress has already approved funding for this program, which would create a National Applications Office to review requests for the information, it’s currently on hold thanks to concerns from Congress about privacy infringement.

For some in Congress, this brought to mind the domestic wiretapping scandal that arose shortly after September 11. On that topic, Representative Jane Harman (D-CA) said, “Since we’ve been rolled, I intend not to get rolled again.” A comment that amusingly brings to mind a rationale used by President Bush about being fooled once.

It is noteworthy that this is merely a delay and not a cancellation of the program. The Office of Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke remains confident that it will ultimately go through once Congress has been satisfied there are sufficient safeguards. (more…)

Published in: on October 3, 2007 at 7:45 pm Comments Off on Renewed Vigilance
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Eavesdrop It Like It’s Hot

I wrote a piece for Campus Progress about why not having an iPhone might be a blessing in disguise. This way, the NSA won’t be wiretapping your phone! Check it out, and feel free to leave comments over there.
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Published in: on July 17, 2007 at 9:27 am Comments Off on Eavesdrop It Like It’s Hot

Fwd: Executive Privilege (TTYL)

During the investigation of U.S. Attorney firing procedures, the electronic communications infrastructure at the White House has been intensely scrutinized. Many of the White House insiders, such as Karl Rove’s former assistant Susan Ralston, have been using private political domain accounts and even AOL accounts to exchange information. Instead of sending and receiving E-mails from addresses from the @whitehouse.gov secure servers, communication is passing through the servers of privately owned and operated companies.

One reason this is important is because sensitive government information has been routed through a company like AOL, which recently had a data breach and revealed sensitive records of hundreds of thousands of subscribers.

However, the major issue here is not overexposure of sensitive information, but rather it is the underexposure.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) feels that the President’s staffers might be deliberately sidestepping the automatic White House e-mail archiving system, which is in compliance with the Presidential Records Act:

“Now that we know that at least two White House officials have circumvented the law by using alternate email systems to discuss the U.S. Attorney firings and Jack Abramoff, we are asking Chairman Waxman to investigate whether the White House has continually violated its mandatory record-keeping obligation under the Presidential Records Act. This administration continues to disregard the law in favor of agenda-driven politics.”

The PRA was enacted in 1978 as a response to Watergate, and it requires that presidential documents be opened up to the public after no more than 12 years. President Bush issued an executive order in 2001 that sought to give current and former president and vice president permission to indefinitely withhold information from the public.

During this year’s Sunshine Week, an effort lead by the American Society of Newspaper Editors which encourages discussion about open government and freedom of information, the House passed four bills with strong bipartisan support that seek to increase government transparency. According to Sunshine Week, the bills passed were:

“H.R. 1309 (308-117) to strengthen FOIA and improve public access to government information; H.R. 1255 (333-93) to nullify an executive order limiting access to presidential records; H.R. 985 (331-94) granting improved protection to federal whistleblowers; and H.R. 1254 (390-34) to require the release of presidential library donor information.”

Congress sent a strong message to President Bush that his assertion of executive power went too far by allowing government records to be permanently sealed. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee said:

“For the past six years, we have had an administration that has tried to operate in secrecy, without transparency, without the public having knowledge about their action. Well, this week, Congress is finally pushing back.”

Though much of the Sunshine Week discussion focused the spotlight on the Bush administration, President Clinton had his own moment in the sun with the executive privilege. (more…)

Published in: on June 20, 2007 at 9:51 pm Comments (4)

W&M & The RIAA

W&M friends who received Sam Sadler’s email about the RIAA going after W&M students might not be aware of how underhanded some of the RIAA’s tactics are. Here is an email J. Alex Chasick sent to Sam Sadler and Gene Nichol; this, and the links at the bottom, should explain.

Dear Mr. Sadler and President Nichol,

In case you weren’t already aware, there has been considerable backlash against the RIAA’s attempts to stop illegal downloading, including its efforts to identify and sue college students. I’d like to thank you for not sharing the personal information of the students whose IP addresses were identified. I’d also like to direct you to a few stories that further describe the RIAA’s chicanery on college campuses.

Last month, the consumer website Consumerist wrote about the RIAA’s practice of sending threatening letters to universities and asking them to forward the letters to students. The letters direct students to P2Plawsuits.com, which suggests the students pay a settlement fine unless they want to be sued. The Consumerist story may be found here.

The Consumerist also reported on several universities’ responses to these letters. The University of Nebraska at Lincoln forwarded the letters to those students it was able to identify, but it also charged the RIAA $11 per letter in processing costs. An Omaha newspaper article quoting the University’s chief information officer pointed out that the University, like William & Mary, is a public school, and was spending taxpayers’ money tracking down the students accused by the RIAA. That article may be found here.

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Published in: on April 13, 2007 at 9:16 am Comments (1)

Free Speech and MySpace

Our Office of Career Services has told us repeatedly to Google our names and see what comes up. They say employers are doing the same thing to research potential associates before they are even interviewed. But according to recent news, all students need to be careful what their names are associated with. A middle school principal in Indiana was alerted by some of his students that an unknown person had created a MySpace.com page under his name and written a slew of cuss words peppered with violent threats. If you’d like to read the explicit text, check out the case (B. v. Indiana, 2007 Ind. App. LEXIS 694, 3 (Ct. App. IN 2007)).

The principal reported his findings to the local juvenile court, which instituted a delinquency petition. The prosecution alleged that if committed by an adult, the student’s actions would have amounted to identity deception, a Class C felony, and harassment, a Class B misdemeanor. Even after dropping most of the charges, including the felony offense, the student was found to be “delinquent” under an Indiana harassment statute, and was placed on nine months of probation.

On Monday, the Court of Appeals of Indiana set aside the verdict, and held that the first amendment extends to comments on MySpace.com. In the opinion, the court said that “While we have little regard for A.B.’s use of vulgar epithets, we conclude that her overall message constitutes political speech. Addressing a state actor, the thrust of A.B.’s expression focuses on explicitly opposing Gobert’s action in enforcing a certain school policy.” A.B. v. Indiana, 2007 Ind. App. LEXIS 694, 13 (Ct. App. IN 2007). And because there was no evidence that this political speech caused damage that would otherwise provide the basis for a tortious action, the statute and sentence of probation were held to be unconstitutional.

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Published in: on April 12, 2007 at 9:32 pm Comments (5)

OurTube…

I contributed a piece to the National ACS Blog about C-SPAN’s copyright policies. Nancy Pelosi recently posted a video of herself speaking at a House Committee meeting onto her YouTube account. It was official C-SPAN footage, and so C-SPAN asked her to remove it.

Want to know how things turned out? Read the blog post over there, and if you feel like it, leave a comment on their blog. Let’s show the rest of the country that our chapter is active and full of insightful progressive thinkers.

I wonder how C-SPAN feels about MC Rove footage being up on YouTube?
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Published in: on April 9, 2007 at 4:21 pm Comments (3)

Say Hi to Hydrogen

Hydrogen, long lauded as a potential alternative to fossil fuels, has had a slow start. But for those of you sick of filling up your gas tank with expensive and polluting fossil fuels take note; Honda has announced that they plan on selling a hydrogen fuel cell powered car in 2008. Granted, the current ticket price for the Honda FCX is around $3 million, but some companies that are already retro-fitting existing internal combustion engines to use hydrogen gas estimate that with mass-production the costs could go to a much more reasonable $20-25,000.

The hydrogen engine is similar to a gasoline engine, in that the hydrogen fuel is used in conjunction with a battery. However, the similarities end there. The “hydrogen fuel cell” is a misnomer; the hydrogen gas doesn’t actually act as a fuel. Instead, the hydrogen reacts with oxygen in a complicated way, resulting in a highly efficient transfer of energy into a battery for storage. Then the battery powers the moving parts of the car. If that doesn’t make sense to you, as it doesn’t really to me, just imagine the hydrogen fuel cell as a producer of energy, similar to the outlet on your wall. The only difference between the fully electric car and the hydrogen car is that hydrogen reaction creates the energy that powers the attached battery, whereas electricity from your wall (and previously coal, wind, or nuclear power plants) powers the electric car.

The benefits of hydrogen fuels have long been debated, but we now know that it is possible to run a car that lives up to current consumer requirements solely on hydrogen power. (more…)

Published in: on March 28, 2007 at 7:11 pm Comments Off on Say Hi to Hydrogen

Daily Show v. YouTube

Viacom, the parent company of the The Daily Show, recenty accused Google of copyright infringement for hosting clips of Viacom-owned shows onto Google-owned YouTube. Confused? Luckily The Daily Show ran a segment about the legal battle to help explain it for all of us out here in TV Land.

Check it out on iFilm, which is obviously owned by Viacom. But don’t even think about checking it out on YouTube (it’s there now, but I’m afraid of linking to it)!
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Published in: on March 23, 2007 at 5:24 pm Comments Off on Daily Show v. YouTube

Ranking the Cleanest Cities

SustainLane Government an “open-source knowledge base” focusing on sustainable development at the state and local level, recently released their rankings for 2006’s top U.S. cities for clean technology incubation clusters. The group defines a Cleantech incubation cluster as a combination of “Cleantech investments, infrastructure and supportive policies [that form] a physical “cluster.” Ideally, these clusters arise out of combined efforts by venture capital groups, research labs, and active state/local encouragement via proactive programs and incentives. Not surprisingly, and further supporting the growing feeling in many of our guts that it is the coolest state ever, California has three cities in the top five: San Jose, Berkeley, and Pasadena.

San Jose is apparently leading the way nationwide in developing solar power
technologies (don’t ask me what the difference between proprietary thin-film
technology and semi-conductor wafer cells is, but apparently the valley’s
tech firms are mastering both).

Due in part to a $500 million investment (to be shared with the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana) by BP, Berkeley is looking to become “the center of the universe for biofuels.” Intriguingly, included in the scope of this project is the creation of synthetic biofuels, which apparently don’t require all the corn, soy bean or other agricultural matter that typically gets poured into the melange that is biofuel.

Finally, Pasadena was included in the list for its welcoming atmosphere, fostered by the abundance of willing angel investors and venture capitalists in combination with Caltech’s research programs. This environment has proven quite conducive to Cleantech firms, including those on the cutting edge of solar and methane power technologies.

So what is it about California?

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Published in: on March 8, 2007 at 12:59 am Comments Off on Ranking the Cleanest Cities