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ACLU: ‘Capability is driving policy’

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Law enforcement agencies’ efforts to conceal the kinds of mass surveillance tools available to them are anti-democratic and will draw a public backlash, an ACLU attorney argued in an essay this week.

The piece by ACLU staff attorney Catherine Crump argues that law enforcement policies at all levels, from the NSA to your local police department, are guided less by the moral calculus than by technical capability. If an act of surveillance or interdiction can be done, the rationale to do so tends to be developed later, she argues.

“The limits of law enforcement surveillance are being determined by what is technologically possible, not what is wise or even lawful,” she said Friday in a paper published at ACLU.org. “And it’s not uncommon for the police to use a new technology in secret for as long as they can, and then allow the courts to sort out legality once the issue finally comes before them.”

Crump points toward automatic license plate readers, surveillance cameras mounted on unmanned drones, and the location history of your cell phone as examples of technology outstripping legal and ethical considerations.

Crump’s essay comes on the heels of last week’s conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, from which a significant public debate about the limits of technology in public safety has emerged. Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan noted that leaks of intelligence gathering methods by Edward Snowden, including about monitoring of U.S. phone records, threaten to erode existing authority to use high-tech equipment.

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“The scrutiny that the NSA has come under filters down to us,” Keenan said.

However, Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey also argued that police have to be willing to refrain from the use of some methods for surveillance, even though the methods are possible.

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BUSTED: CNN’s panel of women defending Trump’s racism were literally the ‘Trumpettes’

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CNN aired a panel that featured “Republican women” defending President Trump’s racist tweets, but failed to mention that they were actually part of a pro-Trump group whose members the network had interviewed in the past.

This article originally appeared at Salon.

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Ben Carson is Donald Trump’s faulty human shield against accusations of racism

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Ben Carson is back in the news — after another long absence — because Donald Trump has once again been accused of racism.

This article originally appeared at Salon.

The secretary of Housing and Urban Development is the only African-American member of the president’s Cabinet, and is often trotted out to clean up after Trump makes a mess too obviously problematic for the media to ignore. While Trump has tried to spin his recent racist attacks on four progressive freshman congresswomen as a strategic maneuver meant to manipulate Democratic infighting to his advantage, Carson's re-emergence from his stupor should be a clear indication that the president’s team recognizes the damage that can be caused by his unforced errors.

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An illegal trend could be emerging after Trump let Kellyanne Conway off the hook for breaking federal law

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Federal workplaces are supposed to be free of politics, but a Trump administration appointee used a government forum Wednesday to express support for the president’s reelection.

At a conference on religious freedom hosted by the State Department, an official told the crowd of several hundred people that “hopefully he will be reelected,” referring to President Donald Trump.

It’s illegal for federal employees to engage in political activities while they are on the job.

“It’s a violation of the Hatch Act for a federal official, to say in her official capacity, to hope that the president will be reelected,” said Kathleen Clark, an expert on legal ethics at the Washington University in St. Louis.

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