Patterico's Pontifications


Is Conor Friedersdorf Calling for the Impeachment of Barack Obama?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:22 am

Conor Friedersdorf:

In a secret test of mass surveillance technology, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sent a civilian aircraft* over Compton, California, capturing high-resolution video of everything that happened inside that 10-square-mile municipality.

Compton residents weren’t told about the spying, which happened in 2012. “We literally watched all of Compton during the times that we were flying, so we could zoom in anywhere within the city of Compton and follow cars and see people,” Ross McNutt of Persistence Surveillance Systems told the Center for Investigative Reporting, which unearthed and did the first reporting on this important story. The technology he’s trying to sell to police departments all over America can stay aloft for up to six hours. Like Google Earth, it enables police to zoom in on certain areas. And like TiVo, it permits them to rewind, so that they can look back and see what happened anywhere they weren’t watching in real time.

Friedersdorf says: that’s a firing.

Sgt. Douglas Iketani acknowledges that his agency hid the experiment to avoid public opposition. “This system was kind of kept confidential from everybody in the public,”he said. “A lot of people do have a problem with the eye in the sky, the Big Brother, so to mitigate those kinds of complaints we basically kept it pretty hush hush.” That attitude ought to get a public employee summarily terminated.

Summarily terminated, you say? OK. Let’s work with that logic for a moment.

There is undoubtedly some loss of privacy when a camera is able to record and play back all of your public movements. I think there’s a greater loss of privacy when the federal government can read my email. After all, a person’s movements in public are still public. You can be surveilled while you’re in public. While one does not expect to have all those movements tracked by technology, one still recognizes that the actions are public. By contrast, most people still think of their email as private.

But a lot of people do have a problem with their email being read — the Big Brother thing, you know — so to mitigate those kind of complaints, Barack Obama basically kept it pretty hush hush.

Should that get Obama summarily terminated?

Is Friedersdorf calling for the impeachment of Barack Obama?

30 Responses to “Is Conor Friedersdorf Calling for the Impeachment of Barack Obama?”

  1. Ding.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  2. It’s not clear what impeaching Obama over this would achieve. Biden would be just as bad, as would Boehner – the overwhelming majority of the political class in both the executive and legislative branches supports this.

    aphrael (db1491)

  3. drones have been used indiscriminately, specially after his remark about ‘overflying enemy villages,’
    so by Conor’s logic,

    narciso (3fec35)

  4. 2. Agreed. Our form of ‘self-government’ has failed and there’s no one to blame but ourselves.

    gary gulrud (384f70)

  5. Uh…what about surveilling someone in their backyard, behind their fence, on their private property? Where there would be an expectation of privacy?

    Let me put it this way. Your wife likes to sunbathe in the nude behind your very well built privacy fence. She does this because a natural California tan is a beautiful thing. Now all of the sudden some tech geek down at the Sheriff’s Department is taking High-Def pictures of your wife’s “twins” and doing God-knows-what with them on LiveLeaks. The next thing you know, “Mrs. Patterico vs. The Drone” is getting more hits than “The Fox vs. The Giant Catfish”.

    Now…how “mitigated” does that feel?

    Bets (c101cb)

  6. I tacitly accept that Barack Obama should be fired.

    Scott Martelle (341ca0)

  7. Biden would be incompetant, but I don’t think he’d be as lawless as is Obama. Biden would coast, but Obama is still actively trying to ‘fundamentally transform the United States of America’.

    It’s the transformation effort that I fear.

    Brent Glines (a3af2a)

  8. I think P’s logic is more sound than arguing that laws that prevent discrimination based on race mandate discrimination based on race.

    I do agree with aphrael about the consequences of impeaching Obama successfully, but I also agree with Brent Giles.
    For example, the domestic economy has been mishandled, the Constitution and the law is being ignored, we have abandoned Iraq, are abandoning Afghanistan, ignoring Syria (which I am not sure what we would do there at this point anyway), letting Iran get the bomb, giving up a presence on the world stage to let Putin and China do what they will, and Eric Holder is still AG.
    I am not sure if it could get worse, even though I agree that no one takes VP Biden seriously.

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  9. “Summary termination” might mean something else. It really doesn’t have that “due process” ring to it, like impeachment does.

    Kevin M (b11279)

  10. MD – on some level what you’re saying is that impeaching Obama for big-brother-related violations of the constitution won’t actually prevent further big-brother-related violations of the constitution, but it *will* prevent other violations of the constitution, so it would be a good thing.

    I find that problematic; getting people outraged to act on [x] when their actions won’t actually change [x] but will have an effect on [y] is disengenuous at best and might actually harm the likelihood of ever getting [x] fixed.

    aphrael (db1491)

  11. i agree with Mr. aphrael

    America is top-heavy with fascist whores

    happyfeet (8ce051)

  12. Well the Solon of Scranton is worthless, but one fool at a time,

    narciso (3fec35)

  13. PETA has drones. I find this amusing.

    Birdbath (716828)

  14. Dear America,

    Being President is hard.
    And I do all these things to for you, and you don’t seem to appreciate them.



    Elephant Stone (3d8c2e)

  15. If some .gov employee/contractor/nsa,cia, LEO happens to come across some free porn while viewing drone images it is better than the same employee using the .gov broadband connection to surf tranny porn. At least they will for once be doing their job. If we finally reach the point that all of the jobs associated with surveillance of citizens should be eliminated, then our freedom may have have a chance. Until then this is the future.

    highpockets (d91456)

  16. My backyard is not public and I resent the hell out of them looking around for no other reason except they can.
    Look for them to start dealing with trends they find in your driveway.
    Got an old Bobcat with an older and now illegal motor in the backyard?
    No nifty red sticker? Thats a fine. Maybe they send a crew to remove it and junk it, sending you the bill.
    Once other agencies see how much money can be made via fines and siezures from using this technology there will be no stopping them without a revolt

    steveg (794291)

  17. aphrael,
    FWIW, I don’t really think we are serious about impeaching president Obama,
    so my comments were not meant to be completely serious either.

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  18. Bets makes a good point: this technology captures private activity as well as public activity.

    The basic point remains: so does technology allowing the reading of private emails. I still wonder if Conor F. would therefore endorse Obama’s summary termination — or, hey, more reasonably, his impeachment.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  19. My backyard is not public and I resent the hell out of them looking around for no other reason except they can.

    Whether you agree with the policy or not, it is not the case that they are doing it “for no other reason except they can.”

    They’re trying to solve crimes.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  20. “They’re trying to solve crimes” is not an excuse for collecting on private activity without a warrant. This is basic 4th Amendment stuff.

    However, Sgt. Screw-My-Oath would rather you just forget you have that right. I imagine he would also hope that you forget about the 5th Amendment, the 14th, your Miranda rights, and hell…why bother with that whole lawyer crap? You really don’t need one. Trust him. He’s there to help you.

    Bets (c101cb)

  21. Conor Friedersdorf’s motivation is clear enough; he wants attention with earning it, as usual.

    Instead of improving his skills and gaining experience, he hopes to leapfrog all those ancient traditions by saying sensational things or attacking better known writers or bloggers (“punching up”).

    And all the 4th Amendment really guarantees you is that a warrant can’t be issued except on probable cause, and that evidence improperly found and seized can’t be used in court. And it does NOT protect your backyard, unless all or part of it is deemed “curtilage.” In most cases a fenced backyard used to tan your wife’s hooters would qualify, but it isn’t automatic. The size of the yard and the size and composition of the fence would be factors.

    Estragon (ada867)

  22. Understood.
    They will eventually share the technology and the other agencies will snoop away not just because they can, but because no one will stop them.
    They’ll fly over and the that the rear of your car is a foot into the sidewalk… ticket!
    This time the car is a nose into the red… ticket!

    I think you trust the collectors of the information too much.
    Some of the viewers and joy stick operators will indeed be snooping around within your hedges just because they can… sure they start out looking for crime, but they get bored and start watching your daughter and her friends splashing in the sprinklers…
    Or ask yourself how does TMZ get its crime footage, copies of sealed court documents… how do prisoners get cell phones … from people who can be bought for cheap

    steveg (794291)

  23. That’s not all the 4th Amendment guarantees Estragon. Maybe you need to read it.

    And…”Curtilage is the immediate, enclosed area surrounding a house or dwelling. The U.S. Supreme Court noted in United States v. Dunn, 480 U.S. 294 (1987), that curtilage is the area immediately surrounding a residence that “harbors the `intimate activity associated with the sanctity of a man’s home and the privacies of life.” Curtilage, like a house, is protected under the fourth amendment from “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

    The four factors used to determine “Legal Curtilage” include:

    1) The distance from the home to the place claimed to be curtilage (the closer the home is, the more likely to be curtilage);

    2) Whether the area claimed to be curtilage is included within an enclosure surrounding the home (is it fenced in);

    3) The nature of use to which the area is put (if it is the site of domestic activities, it is more likely to be a part of the curtilage); and

    4) The steps taken by the resident to protect the area from observation by people passing by (shielding from public view will favor finding the portion is curtilage).

    Estragon, back yards with privacy fences are virtually always considered curtilage. So your argument is specious when my original point was that the drone was spying on fenced in PRIVATE PROPERTY.

    Bets (c101cb)

  24. “Conor Friedersdorf’s motivation is clear enough; he wants attention with earning it, as usual.
    Instead of improving his skills and gaining experience, he hopes to leapfrog all those ancient traditions by saying sensational things or attacking better known writers or bloggers (‘punching up’).”

    Ah commenters. You’ve gotta love ’em. Write an article about the LA County Sheriffs conducting mass surveillance over Compton, and, somehow, they’ll characterize it as “attacking better known writers.”

    Which writers? What attack? And then you realize your mistake: assuming that there is logic behind their words. At which point you just shake your head and laugh.

    Conor Friedersdorf (32938c)

  25. Conor,

    Thanks for stopping by. Rather than taking issue with a single commenter, why not address the question raised by the post? I think it’s a fair question; what’s your reply?

    Patterico (9c670f)

  26. Crickets chirping, Patterico

    JD (44af78)

    (PledgeToImpeach dot com)

    Elect an “impeachment congress”, 2014.
    Impeach Obama, et al, early 2015.
    (Include Biden & other executive &
    judicial branch civil officers whose
    actions warrant impeachment.)

    Clean DC, 2015.

    Commentor7 (1f5fc6)

  28. California v. Ciraolo and Florida v. Riley both hold that aerial surveillance doesn’t require a warrant if it’s from normally flyable airspace. Hell, Riley involved a helicopter flying at a couple hundred feet above ground, which is a hell of a lot more invasive and a lot more marginal a definition of flyable airspace, and has been settled law for over two decades.

    That said, atmospheric interference and the physics of sensor and data capacity probably limit this stuff from going much further. Basic trig says that they’re trying to look through >5000 feet of dusty air from a moving aircraft at an oblique angle (the FAA doesn’t let aircraft stay too low unless taking off or landing), and even very high-quality lenses and cameras can only get you so far. I’m kinda surprised they could get anything through LA’s smog, but even in places not known for terrible air quality, it’ll certainly never be physically possible to get the detail necessary to make out a face. I’ve seen aircraft mounted FLIR cameras try, and even best-case scenarios and very long lenses can barely make out someone waving their arms.

    Of course, it’s also not /that/ oblique of an angle, if my math is right. You can’t make out faces if you’re looking at the top of people’s heads, no matter your resolution.

    gattsuru (e9d4ba)

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