(Josh Wolf is a freelance journalist and anarchist. He has been jailed for refusing to turn over videotapes of a protest being investigated by federal authorities. Lots has been written about his case. Last Friday I ran a reminder of his incarceration. I’ll do it every Friday until he is freed. If you are a media blogger consider doing the same. Josh is alone. But he needs to know that he is not forgotten. Tom Abate, San Leandro, California; aka MiniMediaGuy.)
There was a benefit for Josh last night in San Francisco and he wrote a statement for the occasion explaining his reasons for defying a court order to turn over his cameras, tapes and other unpublished materials. In one excerpt he says:
“Does a democracy allow me to be a journalist? . . . By engaging in such pursuits should I become indebted to the government and forced to act as a de facto agent for the FBI? Is this the cost of committing journalism in a democratic country? I certainly hope not.”
Political people — especially those on the left — don’t always generate a lot of sympathy. But anyone who puts a value on liberty should pay attention to Josh. There is a vermin loose in Washington, D.C., that has been nibbling away at our rights. Not just the rights of anarchists, but my rights and yours. Sound extreme? Well, did you know that, if you have a cell phone, the FBI can listen in on you life – even when you think the phone is off.
When my oldest son showed me the story at first I didn’t believe it: the FBI can activate the microphone inside cell phones and use these devices listen in on conversations. Here are excerpts from a story by CNet reporters Declan McCullagh and Anne Broache, who specialize in writing about technology and civil liberties:
“The FBI appears to have begun using a novel form of electronic surveillance in criminal investigations: remotely activating a mobile phone’s microphone and using it to eavesdrop on nearby conversations . . . the eavesdropping technique ‘function(s) whether the phone was powered on or off.’ Some handsets can’t be fully powered down without removing the battery.”
The article explains that the technique was used in an organized crime investigation and pursuant to some form of court order. So I suppose if you don’t hang out with Mafioso you’re in no danger of being eavesdropped.
Because everybody seems to be a federal suspect these days. We have secret courts and surveillances that get run even without that fig leaf of authorization. Now we learn that Uncle Sam can use our cell phones to eavesdrop on our lives.
Had you ever heard of this before? Do you even believe it?