News and Updates:
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Training Workshop
“The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a law that gives you the right to access information from the federal government. It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government. Under the FOIA, agencies must disclose any information that is requested – unless that information is protected from public disclosure. The FOIA also requires that agencies automatically disclose certain information, including frequently requested records. As Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court have all recognized, the FOIA is a vital part of our democracy.” - from foia.gov
Restore the Fourth Chicago is very excited to announce that we and Civiclab will be hosting a FOIA training workshop, presented by government transparency attorney Matt Topic of Loevy & Loevy. The training will provide an overview of the Illinois FOIA statute and practical tips. There will be plenty of time for questions and to discuss specific issues people have experienced.
The workshop will take place on Tuesday, August 19th at 7:00 p.m. at CivicLab, which is located at 114 N. Aberdeen in the West Loop. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to exercise your rights by utilizing this critically important tool!
Here's the Facebook event page with further details:
Come watch “The Lives Of Others” with Restore the Fourth Chicago!
Join Restore the Fourth Chicago for “movie night” at CivicLab, as we watch the suspenseful 2006 Academy Award-winning study on surveillance and free will, “The Lives of Others”. In the film, East German Stasi captain Gerd Wiesler is tasked with spying on a potentially subversive couple. Although he finds nothing suspicious, he grows to feel for his subjects, and he is faced with the need to make a critical and consequential choice, bringing his own loyalties into question. States reviewer Lisa Schwarzbaum, “Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck conveys everything he wants us to know about choice, fear, doubt, cowardice, and heroism.”
Drinks and snacks will be provided, and we will have a discussion afterward if we feel so inspired. If you haven’t been to one of our meetings, this is the perfect opportunity to stop in and say “hi”! We hope to see you there!
What is a “Stingray”?
A “Stingray” is a brand and also a generic term for a portable device which mimics a cell phone tower and draws nearby cell phones to connect to it for the purpose of information collection. The owner of a Stingray can determine who you are, who you are calling, your location, and in some cases collect data from your phone. As a result of FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests, the Chicago Police Department has been forced to reluctantly disclose that it has spent hundreds of thousands of your tax dollars purchasing these devices, but it has not yet revealed when or for what purposes it has used them. However, indications exist: Activists at recent events have reported quickly draining and malfunctioning cell phones, and suspicious vehicles which could conceivably house such devices.
The primary concern raised by Stingrays and other advanced technologies is that in all probability they are being use on a mass scale, and for collecting your personal information without a warrant, which is a direct violation of your 4th amendment rights. As yet, we simply don’t know the extent to which our privacy is being violated. Information collected could be used purely as leads, and in such a way as to not reveal the illegality of the source. Technology has far outpaced the law.
Advancing technology should not mean that our constitutionally-guaranteed rights need to give way; the technology and those who own it must be made to conform to what is RIGHT!
Stay tuned for Restore the Fourth Chicago to focus on the Stingray issue, including a workshop demonstrating how to submit your own FOIA requests. In the meantime, check out EFF’s guide to Stingray technology:
Last year the Snowden revelations shocked the nation by exposing grievous violations of our privacy rights by the U.S. government. However, in October, a glimmer of hope arrived in the form of the USA FREEDOM Act. Adding to its credibility was authorship by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, father of the Patriot Act, who voiced concern that interpretations of his creation had gone dangerously astray. While leaving much to be desired, USA FREEDOM put a leash on the bulk collection of business records including phone call logs, and introduced a Special Advocate to defend civil liberties before the FISA court, which grants secret surveillance orders. The bill found bi-partisan support. It represented a start to the conversation and launched the bulk surveillance controversy into the legislative spotlight.
But that’s over now: USA FREEDOM has become “USA FREEDUMB”. In order to satisfy the whims of the administration, Congress has neutered the Special Advocate, included a provision to extend section 215 of the Patriot Act another two years past its 2015 expiration date, and what’s left is little more than a Trojan horse codifying into law the very bulk collection programs the bill was initially designed to defeat. It’s so bad that Michael Hayden has vocalized his support — the former Director of the NSA, and a man who Glenn Greenwald has stated “belongs in prison for implementing illegal warrantless eavesdropping of Americans”. Nearly every civil liberties organization has now rescinded support for the House version of the bill.
Unfortunately, news outlets still glaze over the details and pass off the bill as legitimate reform. The general public knows very little of all of this, and why would they, with a bill masquerading as “FREEDOM”?
We simply cannot let USA FREEDUMB pass and be applauded as a victory.
Fortunately, there is still a chance for USA FREEDOM, as the bill must still pass the Senate, where the original unmolested version is still a possibility. Right now, Restore the Fourth is requesting that Senator Dick Durbin do his utmost to make sure that the original version of USA FREEDOM gets through the Judiciary Committee intact. As one of 18 Judiciary Committee members, he has a critical role to play advocating for serious reform. As a co-sponsor of USA FREEDOM, we hope he will stand strong against efforts to water the bill down. Please thank him for supporting it so far, and let him know that you want it to survive the committee process. Stand up for your right to privacy and urge the passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, and not the USA FREEDUMB Act!
Ultimately we may need to shoot down this bill. But while there is a chance, we have got to try. Do not let the momentum behind the historic USA FREEDOM Act go to waste!
Please call Senator Durbin today:
Dick Durbin (202) 224-2152
Join us on Thursday, March 27th, at 7:00PM to see what's possible in Chicago. CivicLab’s monthly salon exploring ideas about life in Chicago takes on a surveillance theme. Please join us for an evening of conversation and thought-provoking presentations. We'll hear from:
-Cameras and Crime:
Rajiv Shah, Eyeing Chicago, Adjunct Asst. Professor, UIC Dept. of Comm.
-365 Photos of Surveillance:
Jazmin Dua, Artist / Collaborator / Educator, The Birds Eye Project
-Public Key Cryptography:
Francisco Ruiz, Assoc. Prof of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, creator of Passlok
-Privacy and Civil Liberties:
George Pike, Director, Pritzker Legal Research Center
We invite you to share stories about ways in which you have been impacted by privacy, secrets, and discovery from serious to farcical.
Narrated by Morgan Freeman. Refreshments served! Click on Morgan to register!
CivicLab is located at 114 N. Aberdeen St. in the West Loop.
You may already be aware of The Day We Fight Back, a widespread day of online protest against mass surveillance on February 11, in which thousands of web pages will carry a prominent banner promoting action to curtail government spying on its own populace.
You may also be aware that you’re invited to show your support not only online, but in person by attending a march and a group dinner that same day, meeting at Daley Plaza at 5:00 PM, marching through the Loop beginning at 5:30, and finishing by joining together at 6:30 for dinner at Timothy O’Toole’s Pub (Ontario and Fairbanks), where you can meet fellow supporters and help craft plans for continued activism.
But do you remember why it matters? When someone wants to brush off these concerns, dismissing them as merely personal squeamishness about privacy, maybe even eying you with suspicion wondering whether you have “something to hide,” and tossing out a hand-waving argument about “making us safer”…what do you say in response?
In this video, Trajan McGill reminds us what is at stake and why. It is about making us safer, after all, but it is vital that we remember all of the kinds of safety we need to preserve. For here nothing less is in jeopardy than our freedom to stand up for whatever we believe in. Watch it, share it, and urge your friends and family to recognize what the real danger is. We owe it to one another and to the next generation to keep it safe for every person to hold, express, and push for his or her vision of what is right for our nation.
Help us remind our neighbors on the streets of Chicago that this does matter. Join us, online, in person, and on the phones to your representatives on 2/11, to seek an end to mass surveillance!
In conjunction with the EFF's online protest event The Day We Fight Back, Restore the Fourth - Chicago will be hosting a march and group dinner.
We will meet on Daley Plaza at 5pm on February 11th. Following a few short remarks we will leave Daley Plaza promptly at 5:30, marching through the Loop to raise awareness of the NSA's violation of the Fourth Amendment rights of all Americans. We'll end at Timothy O'Toole's Pup (Ontario & Fairbanks) at 6:30 to hang out, talk about future ideas for RT4 Chicago, and give those who choose not to brave the winter weather a chance to participate.
Please join your fellow Chicagoans in standing up against the NSA's violations of our Fourth Amendment rights!
It takes a Congress to Protect Our Rights: President Obama’s Reforms are Mere Window Dressing
In his January 17th speech, President Obama stated that “individual freedom is the wellspring of human progress.” Unfortunately, his proposed reforms do almost nothing to secure the privacy that is a prerequisite for those freedoms, and the President demonstrated that he is not willing to even consider eliminating the programs which fundamentally violate our constitutional rights.
- The President proposes to transfer control of phone metadata archives to the telecom companies while retaining the government’s ability to access the data.
- He will put expiration dates on the secret gag orders that accompany the FBI’s data-seeking National Security Letters, “unless the government demonstrates a need for further secrecy”.
- He will order the Attorney General to “review for the purposes of declassification” any FISC court decisions with broad privacy implications, but not necessarily to declassify them.
- He will place restrictions on the government’s ability to retain, search and use domestic communications, but did not say what those restrictions are.
- He declares that “we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies,” but he does not give the American people the same assurance.
These pitiful half-measures demonstrate that reforms by executive directive are no reforms at all. The executive branch cannot be left to police itself. Good intentions, oversight committees, and the re-location of the data in question are no substitute for an independent investigation, the abolition of unconstitutional data-collection programs, and an end to the system of secret law that enables mass surveillance. “Trust us” is simply not enough of an assurance. We need transparency, a public debate, and legal reforms enacted by Congress!
Join us at Federal Plaza on October 26th at 12:30 PM to push back against the
surveillance state and support our fourth amendment rights!
Please like, share, and RSVP to our rally on our Facebook page!
Catch up on privacy-related news with our weekly summary in our News section!
Restore the Fourth Chicago meets every week at CivicLab to organize our efforts
and decide the future agenda of our organization. Join us at 7:00PM for a social half-hour with wine
and snacks (or grape juice for those under 21!). Our official meeting starts at 7:30PM and usually goes until 9:00PM.
Check our Events listing or our Facebook Page for more details!