Creating more family time with the KGB

I have recently returned from a trip to Budapest, where the shadow of the old Iron Curtain actually illuminated my perspective of the emerging US surveillance state.

Sitting in a Starbucks in the Heart of Europe, I started talking politics with a fellow-coffee drinker, a woman in her thirties who worked for one of the major American firms in the City. Right now, the Hungarian Government, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, is trying to push the Country back towards Russia. Mr. Orbán has tried to tax the Internet and is now asking for mandatory drug tests for journalists; in short, he is doing whatever he can to control the dissemination of information within the borders and throughout the World. As I sipped my chai, expressed my support for the protests happening throughout the City, and calmly criticized the PM, a pall was cast over my new friend. She explained that if we were having this conversation twenty-five years ago, a car would have pulled up, we would have been taken, and our bodies would (maybe) be found in a field somewhere.

While my friend was clearly enjoying her capitalist coffee and the economic prosperity that came with working for an American company, she lamented the erosion of close family relationships that had been fostered by living in a constant state of fear: when strangers in a coffee shop, or even your close friends, could be State informants, the only people you could truly trust, the only people who were not likely to turn you in for speaking against the Government, were your parents, who would be endangered themselves for raising a dissident child. So families were close. They had to be. If there was silver lining to constantly having to guard your thoughts and opinions in the 1980s, this was it.

Fast forward to 2002: the same little “Reagan-ites” who believe that their trickle-down economics won the Cold War instituted a system of statewide 24/7 surveillance in the United States that does not rely on human intel. Our phones and computers provide a mechanism of data gathering that would have sent the KGB and its satellite agencies into raptures: the NSA can listen in on your family dinner by remotely operating your cell phone; everything you have said on the phone or typed on the Internet since 2008 is recorded and searchable in the NSA’s databases. Worse still, the NSA has all of the metadata from these communications too, so they can construct whatever narrative they want out of your activities. While the old-school Soviet surveillance may have facilitated more intimate familial relationships, the NSA’s programs force families to keep their phones in the fridge during dinner.

Although I am no longer sitting in a coffee shop in the former Eastern Bloc, I am nevertheless still sitting under the ever-watchful stare of the government. Right now, our Firm is fighting the warrantless collection and retention of private data by the State: Indiana has the complete genetic profile of some 2 Million Plus people born after 1991. See our Complaint about this unauthorized hoarding of newborns’ DNA here.

Tucked into budget bill is a provision giving banks more freedom to risk depositor money

After the 2008 financial crisis, everyone knows the term “too big to fail.” Ironically, a result of the financial crisis was that the top banks consolidated even more, as healthier large financial institutions bought sick large financial institutions.

Disturbingly, tucked into Congresses’ recent budget bill is a provision repealing some of the protections put into place after the 2008 crisis that were designed to keep banks from getting into so much trouble with derivatives again! No one seems to be terribly upset about this, but you can bet it come under scrutiny the next time a large bank needs to be bailed out. See the article for more details

http://america.aljazeera.com/blogs/scrutineer/2014/12/15/cramming-the-cromnibusrushedspendingbillcreatessystemicmoralhaza.html

Bank of America pays out over $32 million in Telephone Consumer Protection Act case

In 2014, Mr. Saeed worked on behalf of over 7 million class-action members against Bank of America, who was accused of violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The bank infringed upon the rights and protections of these individuals by making countless harassing phone calls to consumers’ cell phones. In what amounted to be the largest cash settlement under this Protection Act, Bank of America agreed to pay out over $32 million. You can read more about this settlement in the links below. Our firm is dedicated to continuing to not allow these types of corporate misdeeds to occur. If you have any questions about this type of creditor harassment, or feel that you may have a case, please feel free to contact us at (317) 721-9214 or through our website.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/30/bankofamerica-robocalls-settle-idUSL1N0HQ0HU20130930

https://www.huntonprivacyblog.com/2014/09/articles/bank-america-finalizes-32-million-dollar-settlement-tcpa-class-action/

ABC News airs story on creditor harassment

Recently, ABC News aired a story on creditor harassment by Bank of America. The story from ABC World News reported on creditor harassment by creditors, more specifically Bank of America. The story also reported on the case of Mehran Valiyi which is currently being handled by Ali Saeed, a Partner at Saeed & Little, LLP. Mr. Saeed has successfully litigated several cases involving creditor harassment by creditors and debt collection companies. Mr. Saeed was also a counsel of record for one of the largest class action creditor harassment lawsuits against Bank of America. If you are being harassed and are a victim of abusive collections practices please contact Saeed & Little, LLP.

Click here to go to the story on abcnews.go.com.

Microsoft tells US: The world’s servers are not yours for the taking

The issue of control vs. physical location of data is very important not only for privacy concerns, but for business competition reasons. Check out this recent article:

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/12/microsoft-tells-us-the-worlds-servers-are-not-yours-for-the-taking/

where a US Judge is ordering Microsoft to produce data stored on servers in Ireland. The article does a good job of summarizing the situation, so I won’t rehash it all here. It’s worth a read.

Legal issues issues aside, I can see why technology companies are afraid of this from a business standpoint. Foreign companies are going to be reluctant to host sensitive data on cloud services owned by US companies, even if the servers are located out of the US, if the US government is going to assert that it has control over that data.

I like the idea, mentioned in the article, of working with the foreign governments through existing treaties (which may need to be modified to address some issues of the digital world) to obtain the data. That method better respects the sovereignty of the foreign government, and will give foreign business more confidence in dealing with US companies.

Why you shouldn’t get your legal advice from news headlines

Legal issues involving police interaction with the public are the subject of intense media scrutiny these days, and with good reason. Anyone who can watch the video of Eric Garner without becoming upset has managed to switch their emotions off in a way that is probably not healthy.

So when I see headlines like this:

Illinois Passes Bill That Makes It Illegal To Record The Police

My first reaction is to think “how horrible! Illinois is trying to cover up police brutality by making it illegal to film to police! That is unconstitutional!”

But then when I actually read the article, I see that no, Illinois is trying to make it illegal to record “private encounters” without permission from both parties. There are many states that already require two-party consent to record conversations, so this is not a novel concept. The definition of “private encounter” might be a little vague, but it’s a pretty hard argument to make that Illinois’ new bill is going to make it illegal to film public police interactions on the street.

I’m not saying that I think Illinois is passing a great law, however, it is pretty clear that the headline is exaggerating the effect of the law to get readers to click on the headline. I know it worked on me!

Dear Santa

Do you know what I’d like for Christmas?

I’d like to go for one week without hearing about a new case of a coach who abuses an athlete.

I’m not going to hold my breath.

Just yesterday, another tragedy of this kind unfolded in Chicago, and a man who parents unwittingly trusted to coach their kids was arrested for molesting one of his students.

Here are the details:

• He claimed to be a former Olympic bobsledder (but the IOC has no record of him)
• He owned a business teaching kids to swim
• He coached youth soccer and baseball at a Chicago Park District facility
• He was charged with fourteen counts, including kidnapping, intent to inflict harm, and criminal sexual abuse of a minor.
• He was a convicted sex offender.

Wait! WHAT??

That’s right, folks. In 1995, this guy pleaded guilty to child molestation, but no one bothered to check his criminal record before letting him loose with children. Chicago Park District says he wasn’t a “Registered Volunteer”, so he didn’t have to go through a background check.

No.

As a mother – as an aunt – as a generally decent human being, I don’t accept that.

The City needs to be accountable to its children. I don’t care if you drive a Zamboni or an ice cream truck – if you are working or volunteering, in any capacity, at a City park, you need to get a permit, and the process NEEDS to include a criminal background check.

“But that’s too expensive!”

“That will take too long!”

Tell that to the parents of the thirteen-year-old girl who he took to his basement. Do you think they’ll ever be able to forgive themselves – even though they did nothing wrong?

Tell that to the girl herself. What about her? Do you think she’s going to have the life of a “normal” teenager? Do you think she’s ever going to sleep soundly again? Or trust a man again? Or trust anyone again?!

Is the $ and two minutes you saved NOT checking this guy’s background worth this girl’s childhood? And what about his other victims? Because believe you me, they’re there.

Here’s the link: http://abc7chicago.com/news/youth-sports-coach-who-claims-to-be-olympian-jailed-in-sex-abuse-case/422693/

Have you been accused of misconduct by a university and been denied due process under Title IX proceedings?

We have noticed a very disturbing trend at state universities. Students accused of serious crimes such as sexual assault or sexual misconduct are being expelled from school and are being branded sexual predators without being given anything resembling a fair hearing. This is being done under existing school disciplinary codes and Title IX proceedings.

Our firm has fought very hard for many years to protect the rights of sexual assault victims. We believe that anyone who is guilty of sexual assault should be punished according to the law, and that steps should be taken to ensure that such a person is not in a place to commit new assaults. However, we also believe that everyone who has been accused of sexual assault should have the right to due process, and the processes that are being applied to some students in these situations is not due process.

“Due process” is of the most fundamental principles of a modern legal system. It the idea that a person should not be deprived of life, liberty, or property with a fair process, and it is found in the 5th and 14th amendments to the US Constitution and in various places in state constitutions. The right to due process means that in theory, the government can’t throw you into jail for years or keep your property without first going through a process that gives you the chance to mount a defense and tell your side of the story. When this is not followed, we end up with things like Guantanamo Bay, civil asset forfeiture abuse, and now, the denial of fair hearings to students accused of sexual assault or other crimes.

At many universities, if a student is accused of sexual assault, Title IX proceedings are initiated, and the student may be expelled from school without a fair hearing. An expulsion from school under such circumstances can have lifelong implications for a student who has just been branded a sexual predator without being allowed to appropriately defend themselves. Also, statements made during such a hearing and the surrounding process may be later used against the student in further criminal proceedings brought by the prosecutor’s office.

If you have been accused of sexual assault or other misconduct at your college or university, and you feel that your rights have been violated, please call us at (317) 721-9214 today to discuss your rights.

Also, please remember that any statements you make to your school, or to anyone else concerning such allegations, may have criminal implications, so you should consult with an attorney before making any statements.

“…nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…” – from the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

“…nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…” – from the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.