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June 2020
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Cops -- Newly Wary Of Looking Like Authoritarian Assholes -- Open Fire On, Arrest Journalists

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There was a window of opportunity for cops following the George Floyd killing. Floyd, suspected of nothing more than passing a fake $20 bill, was killed by Officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis PD. Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd's neck until he was dead. This act lasted for nearly nine minutes -- and for nearly three minutes after Chauvin checked for a pulse and found nothing. Yet he persisted, and none of the three cops around him stopped him.Chauvin has been criminally charged and is under arrest. We'll see where that takes us. But the opportunity was there for the rest of the nation's cops to separate themselves from this "bad apple." Cop defenders ignore what bad apples do to barrels, but we won't. Chauvin is a symptom. He is not the disease.As protests broke out around the nation, law enforcement agencies responded. While a small number attempted to find middle ground with aggrieved citizens, most acted as though they were a law unto themselves in these troubled times.One site got it completely right -- a site that so often offers up hot takes that it is the source of its own meme. Slate, of all places, nailed this call:

Police Erupt in Violence Nationwide
And they did. They shot canisters onto the porches of people not violating curfew declarations. They shot protesters in the face with rubber bullets and tear gas canisters. And they treated the press like every authoritarian nation treats the press: as enemy combatants.
This should come as no surprise. When the shit goes down, no rights will be respected. The Fourth tends to go first, but the First is often right behind it.First, we had to deal with the coronavirus and government grabs for power. And this is where we are now: trying to limit a rational response to hundreds of years of racism, manifested as Officer Chauvin's decision to place his knee on the neck of a black man until long after the man was dead.The streets are filled with cameras. Cops control most of them. But they can't control journalists. So, they seek to intimidate them by making it clear their presence isn't welcomed. The current situation may heighten the response but it has been this way for years. Cops have made it clear -- and they've been backed by the Commander-in-Chief -- the press is the enemy. Journalists record things and those recordings usually make their way to many people -- far more than the average internet rando could hope to rope in. If you can't control the narrative, you can always attempt to control the journalists.When chaos is on the menu, the cops can still try to maintain control of the reporting. And most of their sins will be forgiven because the situation was unforeseeable. But when it's happening, we can see it. We can see what they do and how they react. And, because they react badly, every unblinking eye must be closed. The power must remain centralized, and if that means taking a few journalists out, so be it.

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posted at: 12:00am on 02-Jun-2020
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Securus Quietly Settles Lawsuit Over Illegally Spying On Inmate Attorney Conversations

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We've noted repeatedly how interstate inmate calling service (ICS) companies have a disturbingly cozy relationship with government, striking (technically buying) monopoly deals that let them charge inmate families $14 per minute. Worse, some ICS companies like Securus Technologies have been under fire for helping the government spy on privileged inmate attorney communications, information that was only revealed in 2015 after Securus was hacked. Given the apathy for prison inmates and their families ("Iff'n ya don't like high prices, don't go to prison, son!") reform on this front has been glacial at best.The 2015 Hacker-obtained data featured 70 million records of phone calls (and recordings of the phone calls themselves), placed by prisoners in at least 37 different states over a two-and-a-half year period. Of particular note were the estimated 14,000 recordings of privileged conversations between inmates and their lawyers:

"This may be the most massive breach of the attorney-client privilege in modern U.S. history, and that's certainly something to be concerned about, said David Fathi, director of the ACLU's National Prison Project. A lot of prisoner rights are limited because of their conviction and incarceration, but their protection by the attorney-client privilege is not."
Two former prisoners and a criminal defense attorney sued Securus for the practice, and last week Securus quietly settled that suit (pdf) after spending years insisting that the recording of privileged calls was a system error. While the company promised to improve its lax use of call recording technology, most of the more significant demands were stripped from the final settlement:
"The lawsuit had sought $5,000 for anyone whose conversation was wrongly recorded - resulting in a damages payout as high as $70m - though the class action's lawyers ultimately dropped the demand after the courts repeatedly ruled against them on what they needed to prove to win the case. A US federal judge in San Diego decided the lawyers would have to prove that Securus intended to record the privileged calls. They appealed the decision, and the Ninth Circuit refused to hear the case."
Securus has promised to cover attorney costs of $840,000 and $20,000 to each of the class representatives while denying any wrongdoing.Granted this is just one small subset of the problem that is Securus' cozy, monopolized relationship with the US law enforcement and prison apparatus, which in addition to aggressively overcharging inmate families for 20 years, has also resulted in scandals relating to the abuse of sensitive location data obtained from mobile carriers. That scandal also resulted in some performative wrist slaps and a few pinky swears as US lawmakers and regulators, with very few exceptions, continue to look the other direction.

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posted at: 12:00am on 02-Jun-2020
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