Thursday, July 25, 2013

Governor Dayton, Secret Agent Man

When I saw a tweet two days ago by Tom Scheck of Minnesota Public Radio stating that Governor Mark Dayton was going on a no name mission out of state on Wednesday, I tweeted this:

"On a secret trip, to a secret destination, to meet with a secret company, to offer secret $$$ goodies? "

This morning when I got up to read the PRINT papers I saw huge letters on the the Star Tribune B section which said:

 "Secrecy is Job 1 on this jobs trip"

I thought of the mid 60's theme song of Secret Agent Man as I read the story.  Now Governor Dayton is no John Drake, the character played by Patrick McGoohan.  But Governor Dayton likes to play with the secrecy cloak when it comes to economic development.

I do not know how often Governor Dayton and public officials make announced and unannounced trips these days.  But the reason why this is of interest is because of the shenanigans of secrecy that went on with the Baxter deal, basically, a big time public subsidy for Baxter International to expand here in Minnesota.  As the public knows there were sworn oaths and written declarations of secrecy on that deal.  It was like a bunch of kids taken blood oaths and cross their hearts motions not to say anything. Even as the piece of legislation was being talked about at a public hearing on the subsidy proposal many legislators did not know it was for Baxter International.
Governor Dayton worked in tandem with Governor Perpich on a number of economic development proposals.  But with many of those proposals there was a penchant for secrecy, more secrecy then what was necessary. The one big proposal that I still remember and Governor Dayton still does because he was the point person for it was the competition for the first Saturn car plant in the United States in the mid 1980's.  The State of Minnesota was hot in the competition.

It was the subsidy package of all subsidy packages.  The package if I remember right included possible land, property tax abatement, grants and loans, fast track process to get through the local and state processes, basically promising public heaven and earth.  But it was all kept secret by Commissioner Dayton at the time.

Eventually, the proposal became public because there was an outcry by the public.  There were also other factors such as the Department of Administration saying basically you cannot keep all the data in the Saturn proposal secret.

Governor Dayton taking up flight and bringing secrecy into his comings and goings like yesterday,  has brought the possible spin of a cloak-and-dagger farce as it did with the Baxter situation.  As Bob Hume said in the Star Tribune story, there were three options.  They chose to release limited information.  Mr Hume, director of Q Branch, did not suggest for the Governor to go the route of baseball cap, dark sunglasses, and fake beard. 

With the Governor mentioning on Tuesday he was going on a no name mission for a purpose, there was some hint of the cloak of secrecy being lifted, but not enough.

Governor Dayton is a good man as many of the people who have served as our Governor have been.  Generally, people who have served as Governor see a whole wide world of possibilities and want to bring some of that to Minnesota.  Many of the Governors I have known and observed have known how a piece of the world can fit in with piece's of our state.  But does it have to be done in secret? No.  There can be more sunshine.

Sorry, just cannot get that song out my head:

"Secret agent man, secret agent man
They've given you a number and taken away your name......................

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Does the FBI want your Minnesota DL or ID picture?

I have been reading about efforts of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to find out about the FBI's initiative to have agreements and understandings with states to where states share photographs from their own photo databases.  You know that photo that was taken when you got your Minnesota drivers license or when you applied for your Minnesota ID, well it's digitally ready for facial recognition.  And the FBI wants it for their Next Generation Identification (NGI) Facial Recognition Program, without your consent.

EFF has gotten through public record requests and the Courts information about NGI and it efforts across the county.  Two such documents that EFF have received are memorandums of agreement with the states of Hawaii and Maryland with the FBI being their partner.

FOX9 did a story or two how the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) is using facial recognition to catch fraud with drivers license.  DPS got millions of Federal dollars to make all of our photos in their DL databases "facially recognizable" ready.

Well I wanted to find out if the Minnesota Department of Public Safety is in discussion with or making contact with the FBI on the Next Generation Identification and want to vacuum all our "photos".  So I did a data practices request and this is their response:

July 5, 2013

Rich Neumeister

RE: Data Practices Request in regards to sharing Minnesota DL/ID photos with the

Dear Mr. Neumeister:

Thank you for your data request regarding the above referenced matter. In it you
request all government data that the Department of Public Safety may have with
the Federal Bureau of Investigation in doing a Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU) with the FBI in sharing and giving access to Minnesota driver's license and ID
I have spoken with representatives of the Driver and Vehicle Services Division and
the Department does not have any such Memorandum of Understanding.
Consequently, there is no data responsive to your request. Again, thank you for
your email, and should you care to discuss it further, please contact me.


E. Joseph Newton

General Counsel

Friday, July 5, 2013

Restore the 4th Amendment (In Minnesota)

It was great to see thousands, if not tens of thousands of Americans rally across the USA in support of the 4th Amendment which many Americans consider a most precious of the Bill of Rights.  There were a number of Minnesotans who rallied at the Hennepin County Building Plaza yesterday. The emphasis of the rallies where to wake up Americans of the need to watch government and its doings in the collection of millions, if not billions of bytes of our personal data and to set high standards when the US Government wants our personal data.

But it is also important to "restore the 4th Amendment" on the local and state level, specifically here in Minnesota.

Many people may not know this, but we have a 4th Amendment equivalent which is in the Minnesota State Constitution. In our state Bill of Rights, it is Section 10.  The 4th Amendment of the US Constitution has been interpreted by the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in a number of ways which has set out limits as to what privacy means.  But our State Constitution can be interpreted to give us Minnesotans more rights and protections than what the Federal Constitution does.  For example:

You may have heard about roadblocks being set up with the yellow horse saws with local police stopping every car and asking to see an ID, possibly registration, but also at the same time seeing if there may be any indications that may lead them to suspect you for something.  Many times in other parts of the country roadblocks have been set up to check for impairment in driving (drunk driving), check for registration, among other reasons.  The United Supreme Court in a case said that roadblocks are constitutional per their view of the 4th Amendment for purposes of sobriety checks.

But our Minnesota Supreme Court interpreted our State Constitution, Section 10, in Ascher v Minnesota Department Public Safety Commissioner in 1994 and stated that we have more protection of our privacy in certain roadblock situations which makes them illegal and unconstitutional.

Another way to "restore the 4th" is in state statute.  Many of you have heard of the Jones case decided by SCOTUS last year.

The case basically says that the 4th Amendment of the Federal Constitution requires a search warrant which is the highest protection for privacy from the government when they want to put a tracking device on you car.

But did you know in Minnesota we were only a couple of states that had a law that protected our privacy when tracking devices are placed on cars.  This came about because of work I did with Senators Randy Peterson, Gene Merriam, and Fritz Knaak, and Representative Pugh in 1989.  The statutes are 626A.35 through 626A.39  Our state statute was even cited in the briefs used by the parties in the Jones case.

I illustrate the above as examples, how we in Minnesota can restore the 4th Amendment and the protections it envisions for us in Minnesota.  Whether it be through state laws at the Legislature or through the state courts we can make a difference.

There are a number of privacy and civil liberty issues that confront us immediately in Minnesota. Some are of the following:

Whether it be the use of familial DNA, the collection and use of DNA when arrested which in Minnesota you need a search warrant to get based on Court of Appeals decision which is different than the recent SCOTUS decision. (There may be attempts in Minnesota Legislature to change law to make it easier to collect DNA).

Or even how Minnesota law enforcement agencies have easy access to many of our personal emails, documents,  and personal papers in the "cloud" through a simple use of an administrative subpoena or a simple court order (not a search warrant) based on a legitimate need for a law enforcement inquiry.  A very low standard.  There is no 4th Amendment protection for Minnesotans in some of their emails, "personal papers", and documents when they are held by third parties in the electronic storage and communication business.

Restore the 4th in Minnesota.