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August 2019
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Unsealed Warrants Show SFPD Officer Told Judges He Was Targeting A Journalist, But Judges Approved Them Anyway

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Three of the five warrants the San Francisco Police Department obtained to search journalist/stringer Bryan Carmody's home, office, and phones have been tossed by the judges who issued them.The initial warrant, issued in February by Judge Rochelle East was the first be declared invalid. Judge East said the warrant application was misleading, omitting information that would have made it clear Carmody was a journalist and protected by the state's shield law. This warrant -- seeking access to phone call and text message records -- has been tossed. Since everything else in the Carmody investigation stems from this illegal search, the rest of the warrants are destined for the dustbin.Judge East's findings have led to two more judges tossing warrants they issued. It also has led -- at least in Judge Victor Hwang's case -- to the judge possibly reading the warrant for the first time. This statement from David Snyder of the First Amendment Coalition says the warrant Judge Hwang tossed contained information about Carmody that made it clear the SFPD was targeting a journalist.

The search warrant application unsealed today shows, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the San Francisco Police Department knew Bryan Carmody is a journalist before they sought a search warrant for his office — and that they provided ample evidence of that fact to the San Francisco judge that authorized the unlawful search of his office.
The warrant [PDF] contains passages that indicate Carmody is in the journalism business. SFPD Sgt. Joseph Obidi dances around it a bit but ultimately delivers enough information that an attentive judge would have rejected this attempt to bypass the state's shield law.The swearing officer notes that Carmody "is not currently employed at any of the news organizations" that published the leaked death report. But there are other passages in the affidavit's narrative that point towards Carmody's occupation.
Sgt. Watts asked Mr. Carmody if the [officers] that [leaked a copy of a death report to him] profited financially, he stated no. Sgt. Watts asked him if he profited financially, he responded by saying that he profits financially from every story he covers.
And, more explicitly:
It is my belief that Mr. Carmody still has the original copy of the police report in order to further his financial profits by selling it to other interested parties or news outlets at the time. I also believe Mr. Carmody kept the original copy the report as part of his portfolio/records of news stories he has participated in to keep track of his achievements. [...] I believe it is reasonable that someone who makes a career out of producing/selling hot news stories would keep a copy of that as part of his resume.
The affidavit also makes reference to the warrant obtained from another judge to search Carmody's residence. If so, Judge Gail Dekreon likely saw the same narrative and assertions, and yet still gave the SFPD permission to search a journalist's home. As Synder points out, this is unacceptable.
[T]hese statements represent a massive failure by both SFPD and the judiciary to recognize and safeguard the Constitutionally protected rights of Bryan Carmody and, by extension all journalists.
All the warrants will ultimately be tossed because every one of them is predicated on an invalid warrant and an illegal search of Carmody's phone records. But these should have been rejected by the judges who initially reviewed them, shutting down the SFPD's attempt to circumvent the state's shield law. The judicial branch's powers aren't just curative or restorative. They're also supposed to be preventative. Here they failed, leading to multiple rights violations that never should have been allowed to happen.

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Comcast Wireless Joins Verizon In Charging You More For HD Video

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One of the more subtle assaults on net neutrality has been the slow but steady introduction of arbitrary, often unnecessary restrictions mobile carriers will then charge you to get around. Sprint, for example, has toyed with plans that throttle all video, music, and games unless you pay extra. Verizon has also banned 4K video from its network unless you pay more for 5G (which isn't widely available). The company also now throttles all video on its "unlimited" data plans, charging consumers even more if they want to view content in HD as the originating service intended.Comcast has now followed Verizon's lead, and its new wireless service will also now ban HD videoon its unlimited data plans unless you pony up an adidtional $20 per month. The company technically began throttling all video to 480p on its wireless network a week ago, but only just last week announced that users would now be charged more if they actually wanted to watch video in HD:

"Xfinity Mobile's unlimited data plan costs $45 per line per month, but video streams are generally limited to 480p resolution. Comcast yesterday announced a new $20-per-month HD Pass "for an upgrade to HD video resolution on Unlimited lines (720p on phone and 1080p on tablets)." That raises the monthly price to $65."
The problem with these efforts begins with the fact that Americans already pay some of the highest prices for 4G mobile data in the developed world. In exchange, they get mobile 4G broadband service that ranks somewhere around 30th worldwide in terms of speed. Studies also show that US wireless provider video quality is similarly some of the worst in the developed world due to many of the nickel-and-diming, erroneous restrictions being placed on mobile lines.The other problem with these kinds of plans is one of precedent. Once you open the door to letting giant telecom companies impose arbitrary barriers you'll then have to pay extra to get around, you open the door to all manner of additional, problematic efforts (especially with the recent neutering of FCC authority and net neutrality). Want your games to work as intended? Pay us more. Want your music streaming to be free of arbitrary restrictions? Pay us more. Want to use Netflix instead of a telecom's TV services? Pay us more.One way to help minimize these issues is to stop mindlessly signing off on competition-eroding megamergers that only act to reduce any incentive to genuinely compete on price. Instead of direct competition, wireless carriers adore saddling their plans with so many bizarre restrictions and caveats that direct pricing comparisons are often impossible for the average user. Frightened by what they don't understand, these users are then incentivized to buy the most expensive plan in order to avoid overage fees or other restrictions. It's a pricing funnel designed with one thing in mind: upselling you to a more expensive plan.Another answer to this growing problem is for carriers to finally stop marketing clearly limited plans as "unlimited." For fifteen years or so US mobile carriers have marketed "unlimited" data plans with an ocean of very real, very confusing limits. Comcast's unlimited data plan, for example, throttles users back to DSL speeds (1.5Mbps download/750kbps upload) after 20 gigabytes of monthly use. Despite getting government wrist slaps for the better part of 15 years this practice has only accelerated, the number of caveats have grown, and it's a wonder Americans have any idea what kind of connection they're actually buying.Enter the death of net neutrality rules, which not only prohibited many of the more elaborate, heavy handed nickel-and-diming efforts by mobile carriers, but mandated that wireless carriers be entirely clear about what kind of mobile connection you're buying. Wary of the rules being restored due to the state AG and Mozilla lawsuit against the FCC, many mobile carriers are trying to behave. But should the states and Mozilla lose their bid to restore the rules, this entire problem is going to get exponentially worse in relatively short order.

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