(Josh Wolf isÂ a freelance journalist and anarchist. HeÂ has beenÂ 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 doÂ itÂ every FridayÂ until he is freed.Â If you are a media bloggerÂ consider doing the same.Â JoshÂ is alone. But he needs toÂ know that he is not forgotten. Tom Abate, San Leandro, California;Â aka MiniMediaGuy.)
There was a benefit for Josh last night in San Francisco and heÂ wrote aÂ statement for the occasion explaining his reasons for defying a court order to turn over his cameras, tapes and other unpublished materials.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?Â . . . 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 leftÂ — don’t always generate a lot of sympathy. ButÂ anyone who puts a value on liberty should pay attention to Josh. There is aÂ vermin looseÂ in Washington, D.C., that has beenÂ nibbling away at our rights. Not just the rights of anarchists, but myÂ rightsÂ andÂ yours. Sound extreme?Â Well,Â did you know that, if you have a cell phone, the FBI can listen in on you lifeÂ –Â even when you think the phone is off.Â
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. HereÂ are excerpts fromÂ a story by CNet reporters Declan McCullagh and Anne Broache,Â who specialize inÂ 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 theÂ 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 withÂ Mafioso you’re in no danger of being eavesdropped.
Because everybody seems to be a federal suspect these days. We have secretÂ courtsÂ and surveillances that get run even without that fig leaf of authorization. NowÂ we learnÂ that Uncle Sam can use our cell phones toÂ eavesdrop on our lives.
Had you ever heard of this before? Do you even believe it?