PRIVACY + SECURITY BLOG

News, Developments, and Insights

high-tech technology background with eyes on computer display

Councilman: Just What Does it Take for a Law to Be Vague?

Wiretap

To nobody’s surprise, my colleague and electronic surveillance law expert extraordinaire Orin Kerr at the VC beat everybody to the punch in announcing that the 1st Circuit reversed the panel in United States v. Councilman.  As Kerr concisely explains the panel decision in an earlier post:

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National Security, Terrorism, and the Bird Flu

Bird Flu Cartoon

This great cartoon by Tom Toles (Washington Post) captures what I’ve been blogging about (herehere, and here) with regard to national security, terrorism, and privacy.  We’re spending tons of money on elaborate ways to detect terrorists, such as Secure Flight, data mining, searches of bags in NYC subways, and so on.  Meanwhile, we’re not giving sufficient attention to an even greater threat — a potential bird flu pandemic.

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Terrorism, Deterrence, and Searching on the Subway

Subway Searches

Dave Hoffman (law, Temple) over at the Conglomerate blog, has written a very thoughtful retort to a recent post of mine (cross-posted at PrawfsBlawg and Balkinization) regarding the searching of baggage on NYC subways.  I argued that:

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Substance vs. Structure

Legal Argument

Structural arguments are still quite in vogue these days. Federalism versus a national government. Judicial “activism” versus judicial restraint. Filibuster rule versus no filibuster rule. All of these arguments purport to be about structural rules, and they are independent of ideology insofar as they could be argued by liberals or conservatives depending upon who happens to be in power at the moment.

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Making the Constitution Easier to Amend

Amending the Constitution

One reason (although not the only one) that judicial review is always under attack is because the Constitution is very hard to amend. The Supreme Court is often viewed to be the final word on hot-button issues such as abortion. Although there are many cases where the Court is unfairly viewed as the final word, where Congress can address an issue but doesn’t, there are certainly instances where the Court is, in practice, virtually the final word. I say “virtually” because the Court is never really the true final word. The Constitution can always be amended. . . . yeah, and my articles really can get accepted by the Harvard Law Review.

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The Privacy Act, Data of Milking, and the Milking of Data

Milk

Over at choof.org, my friend Chris Hoofnagle (Director, Electronic Privacy Information Center West Coast Office) points out a rather unusual new government database consisting of lactating mothers participating in the “Workplace Lactation Program.”  This database is regulated by the Privacy Act of 1974, which requires that the government provide notice in the Federal Register about its plans for the database and how the data will be used.  According to the notice, the data will include the “[p]articipant’s name, employing office and office symbol, work and home telephone numbers, signed agreement forms, dates and times of lactation room use, and physician’s approval slips and forms (if applicable).”

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