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Government Privacy United States Your Rights Online

FBI Can't Find Its Drone Privacy Reports 78

v3rgEz (125380) writes "Programs run by the federal government are typically required to undergo a Privacy Impact Assessment if there's a chance they'll veer into monitoring the activities of citizens: The assessments help balance the risks and benefits of the program, and help guide any oversight to prevent abuse. But despite being legally mandated, the FBI and Justice Department have had a tough time producing the assessments done in conjunction with the Bureau's domestic surveillance drone program, first telling privacy advocates to file a FOIA request, and then rejecting that request, before ultimately claiming they now simply can't find the documents altogether."
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FBI Can't Find Its Drone Privacy Reports

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  • I can't find my AKM with a giggle-switch, either.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    on the same crashed hard drive the IRS used.
    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      And across multiple laptops, and backup arrays too! Remember folks, most transparent administration in history.

  • Has anyone checked for this regarding the Stingray cell data collection program? Since "FBI Says All Public Records Requests For Stingray Documents Must Be Routed Through It [techdirt.com]," you'd think that these should also have a privacy report -- right?

    • I was looking at houses in Wisconsin and looked at the below house. There is a cell tower on it that is fenced in. The realtor told us that the property the cell tower is on is owned by a . We drove up to the fenced in area around the cell tower and to the right of it is a brick building with a big steel door on it it that has a sign that says "Property of the Federal Government". There are big black cables going right from the cell tower into the brick building and back out again. It's a DIRECT tap off the

      • by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @08:36PM (#49043603)

        The realtor told us that the property the cell tower is on is owned by a .

        Owned by an "invisible agency"?

        There are big black cables going right from the cell tower into the brick building and back out again. It's a DIRECT tap off the cell phone tower!

        Makes for a great conspiracy theory, but all fluff and no bite. It is very common for towers to have several co-located radio systems. Every location I know of in this area has several agencies all on the same tower. One coastal site I work at has Verizon, Coast Guard, and state radios.

        You should realize that the 700/800MHz antennas for public service and feds look identical to the same band antennas that cell phone carriers use, and even different bands can be hard to differentiate from a distance. Especially when the federal systems are trunking and need the same kind of directionality that cell systems do. A "tap off the cell phone tower" is meaningless scare-mongering. You don't tap the tower.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          And Stingray devices are inherently mobile -- you aren't going to see one fixed-mounted like this.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Ever see any US gov't property that had signs, "Property of the Federal Government"? Not me, and I've seen hundreds or thousands of "Property of U.S. Government" signs. (I used to work for the government.)

          As someone else mentioned, Stingrays are small, mobile devices.

          There are thousands of mobile towers, most of them for cell service, some for 2-way radio systems, some for use by licensed amateurs. One could look in an FCC database to see who owns the license of transmitters at that site.

  • by leehwtsohg ( 618675 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @07:45PM (#49043197)

    The original question was if they did any privacy assessment report of the impact of using drones. I think by saying that they can't find any such report, the answer seems pretty obvious....

    • by jd2112 ( 1535857 )

      The original question was if they did any privacy assessment report of the impact of using drones. I think by saying that they can't find any such report, the answer seems pretty obvious....

      I think they should look where they found the IRS emails...

    • The original question was if they did any privacy assessment report of the impact of using drones. I think by saying that they can't find any such report, the answer seems pretty obvious....

      Not obvious at all actually, as it could be that they didn't do such assessments out of incompetence, which is relatively benign, or it could be that they did do the assessments and they don't want anyone to know how invasive they're being (perhaps illegally) which is a very different situation.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So, "we can't find the legal documents to support this activity, but we're going to carry on doing it anyway" is now an excuse sanctioned by arms of the Federal Government?
    Cool. I will have to bear that in mind, because it'll make life a whole lot easier.

    "I can't find my driver's license or vehicle title documents, but you have no grounds to stop me driving"
    "I can't find my proof of legal residency, but that doesn't give you the right to deport me"
    "I can't find any proof that I filed my taxes last year, but

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by Sarten-X ( 1102295 )

      You're being naive in thinking that you understand the underlying basis of the relevant "one law".

      "The law" does not guarantee you the ability to drive, remain in the country, or escape from tax penalties. However, you are guaranteed due process, where the inconvenience to you is compared to the severity of the accusation, and an established procedure is followed to ultimately determine if (and if so, to what extent) you are liable for the incident in question.

      If you can't find your license or title, you ma

      • by khallow ( 566160 )

        Of course, outside of the Internet echo chamber, privacy isn't really a big deal as long as it isn't being violated intentionally to harass someone, so I fully expect the program to continue, probably with a requirement to find the reports or redo the evaluation.

        Or used to rob someone blind or obtain a marketing advantage in elections or the creation of policy. Or used in the future to create and maintain some nasty tyranny. For example, some future proscription list of people to imprison or kill can be created from data taken today.

        There's always a point where a court will consider the impact of the case, and decide whether punishing you will likely be beneficial enough to society to justify your inconvenience.

        Unless the rule of law no longer exists at some future time. The that point doesn't exist as well. Massive, uncontrolled, unaccountable data collection on us is not just about what the government can do to us today, but also what they c

  • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @08:17PM (#49043423) Journal
    They do what they will under the guise of security theatre. LEOs and TLAs routinely disregard anything remotely inconvenient for them in the pursuit of their mission.

    Any citizen paying attention a small fraction of the time can see that the rights of the governed just get in the way of these "patriots" solemn duty to protect us.

    I don't know who you blame for the way things are. Is it the fault of the violators of the Constitution or the complacence the general public seems to have regarding government malfeasance?

    • And yet it was A-OK when Lois Lerner at the IRS lost her records. Ooops! Well, better not to investigate that, let's move on.
      • The lost documents there were internal emails, which were normally retained for six months, and there was no clear existing requirement to keep them longer, as they weren't considered official documents. When official documents with required retention go AWOL, that's time for concern.

    • by Bob9113 ( 14996 )

      I don't know who you blame for the way things are. Is it the fault of the violators of the Constitution or the complacence the general public seems to have regarding government malfeasance?

      I have to place the blame with government officials. 80% of the public sways with the breeze because they are busy making the economy run and raising their families. It is both the job and the duty of elected officials to take their job as our representatives seriously; to not abuse the implicit trust of the 80% that is t

  • by wiredlogic ( 135348 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @08:18PM (#49043433)

    It's filed right next to the stingray privacy reports where they justify pissing all over the FCC's rules against operating an unlicensed transmitter.

    • where they justify pissing all over the FCC's rules against operating an unlicensed transmitter.

      The FBI is a federal agency, and as such are covered by NTIA rules, not the FCC. FBI radios don't need FCC licenses, and you will not find any in the FCC ULS. It's a waste of time to complain about how the FBI isn't following FCC rules.

      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

        ntia only gives them assignment(license) to use their bands, not to interfere with fcc licensed bands... intercepting and decoding private comms permission then again is acquired from a judge in the form of a warrant. the rules the fbi is breaking were not made for the fbi and the fbi shouldn't have a free pass to break 'em in the first place.

        it's not a waste of time as such to complain about it. in your view fbi would be free to block all transmissions on a whim which clearly is not the case.

        they're using

        • ntia only gives them assignment(license) to use their bands, not to interfere with fcc licensed bands...

          First, wrong. Primary users have authority to interfere with secondary users in any band, whether it is pure FCC, pure NTIA, or a mix. And secondary users must not cause interference to, and must accept any interference from, primary users. It depends on the services involved, but your blanket statement is incorrect in its breadth.

          For example, the US Air Force (a federal agency operating under NTIA rules) is a primary user in a part of the amateur (FCC rules) 70cm radio band. USAF operates OTH radar in Ca

          • Primary users have authority to interfere with secondary users in any band, whether it is pure FCC, pure NTIA, or a mix.

            This term, I do not think it means what you think it means.

            A Primary User in radio spectrum jargon means the entity(s)/group(s) primarily licensed to use a specific piece of the radio spectrum. As such, the FBI is most definitely not a Primary User of the spectrum assigned to cellphones.

            To argue otherwise would be to argue against 80 years of FCC regulatory terms and definitions, including their interpretation and implementation to date.

            Seeing as your primary premise is incorrect, the rest of your argument

            • A Primary User in radio spectrum jargon means the entity(s)/group(s) primarily licensed to use a specific piece of the radio spectrum.

              You have just provided a perfect example of a tautology. Primary users have primary licenses. Ok. What I gave is the practical result of that definition. Primary users, no matter which agency they get their license from, can cause interference to secondary users. That's the correction to the original statement I replied to that NTIA cannot issue licenses to agencies that would interfere with FCC licensed users.

              As such, the FBI is most definitely not a Primary User of the spectrum assigned to cellphones.

              I didn't say they were.

              Seeing as your primary premise is incorrect, the rest of your argument is moot.

              Seeing as you didn't understand what was being said ... show me where I

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Good thing Obama promised us "Hope and Change" and how he was going to run "the most transparent administration ever". Would hate for him to actually just be more of the same of his predecessor.

  • put mulder and scully on the case

  • default backup guys? It is now common knowledge that free backups are available for all your information at a single source.
  • The FBI is simply undertaking a minor delay tactic. Given current trajectories, I believe they have calculated that within a short time frame American citizens will have no remaining privacy. Then they can check the box (I am morally certain there is one) that says, "no discernible effect on citizens' privacy." Then they will be happy to post it.
  • The FBI "lost" their privacy assessment? No. I don't buy it.
  • Badges? We don't need no steenking badges.

  • by blue9steel ( 2758287 ) on Friday February 13, 2015 @01:00PM (#49048021)
    So they publicly admitted to committing a federal crime, I'm sure criminal prosecutions will be following swiftly then? Oh wait sorry, I forgot that the law only applies to little people.
  • Let me get this straight; The FBI can not investigate itself losing a report? Let us see how long it would take them to "find" the reports if all future drone spying is dependent on them releasing the report first. Of course national security will never allow such a "tool" to be turned off. They need 24hr operation on everyone in case the citizens have had enough corporate thuggery, right? The latest headlines; "Now we've seen it all, Drones used for keeping agents happy...Federal Boob Inspectors"

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