Government Critic Arrested on Drug Charges in Mexico

Written by Renata Avila On 12 August 2013 @ 7:40 pm | No Comments

In Activism, Advocacy, Arrest and Harassment, Freedom of Expression, Mexico

Twitter user Gustavo Maldonado was arrested [1] and charged with minor drug-related offenses in Chiapas, Mexico on August 9. Apart from possessing and having sold small amounts of cocaine, not unusual for the area, Maldonado is a vociferous critic of local government.
Maldonado's Twitter handle @gumalo3105[2] and his profiles on Youtube and Facebook are highly critical of governor of Chiapas Manuel Vasco Coello. His arrest took place just hours after he shared a video on YouTube [3], exposing a corruption scandal related to local water supply services and other social problems. Maldonado was the administrator of the Anonymous Legion Chiapas YouTube channel [4], where he posted the video.
Local Mexican Twitter users launched a campaign #TodosSomosLegionChiapas [5] (“We are all the Chiapas legion”) arguing that the arrest was a retaliation for Maldonado's opinions and online activities.
While his alias made him easily identifiable, Twitter users  [6][es] and Información de lo nuevo [7] [es], a blog based in the Yucatan peninsula, suggested that law enforcement officials had been monitoring Maldonado's activities using an online surveillance tool called “Black Eyed Hosting.” Police say they received an anonymous tip alerting them to Maldonado's whereabouts.
Authorities in the state of Chiapas have a long history [8] of corruption and abuse of power. The state is known for the Zapatista rebel organization [9], which has since the 1990s advocated for better public services and stronger political representation for residents of the state, many of whom are indigenous. Although these efforts have garnered international attention for years, corruption and social inequality persist in the area.

Article printed from Global Voices Advocacy:

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[1] was arrested:
[4] YouTube channel: http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.orgthe
[5] #TodosSomosLegionChiapas:
[6] Twitter users :
[7] Información de lo nuevo:
[8] long history:
[9] Zapatista rebel organization:

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Government Critic Arrested on Drug Charges in Mexico
Supporters suspect that Gustavo Maldonado was arrested in retaliation for his online activities. Just hours before his arrest on a small-scale drug charge, Maldonado posted a YouTube video accusing local officials of corruption.

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Limitantes a vigilancia de EU, victoria de Snowden: Assange

El presidente de Estados Unidos ha validado el papel del ex agente de la NSA como denunciante con la medida sobre espionaje de Estados Unidos, dijo el fundador de WikiLeaks.

Publicado: 10/08/2013 18:50

El fundador de WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, calificó el anuncio hecho por el presidente de Estados Unidos, Barack Obama, de limitar los programas de vigilancia de su Gobierno como una victoria del ex contratista de la Agencia estadunidense de Seguridad Nacional (NSA) Edward Snowden.

"El presidente de Estados Unidos ha validado el papel de Edward Snowden como denunciante con el anuncio de reformar el programa de vigilancia global de Estados Unidos", dijo Assange en un comunicado en referencia al anuncio realizado el viernes por Obama.
"Ha sido una victoria para Edward Snowden y sus muchos seguidores", dijo Assange en un comunicado que fue publicado el sábado en la página web de WikiLeaks.

Assange, que ha estado encerrado en la embajada de Ecuador en
Londres por más de un año por temor a una extradición a Estados Unidos tras la publicación de documentos clasificados de ese país, rechazó la afirmación de Obama de que las reformas estaban planificadas antes de las revelaciones de Snowden.

"El simple hecho es que sin las revelaciones de Snowden nadie sabría sobre los programas y ninguna reforma podría haber tenido lugar", sostuvo.

Assange acusó al Gobierno estadounidense de una "impresionante" hipocresía en su tratamiento hacia Snowden, ya que ha dado asilo a miles de disidentes, denunciantes y refugiados políticos de países como Rusia y Venezuela.

El Gobierno de Obama ha perseguido vigorosamente a Snowden para que enfrente en Estados Unidos cargos de espionaje por filtrar detalles de los programas de vigilancia de ese país. Snowden se encuentra ahora en Rusia, donde se le ha concedido asilo.

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La Jornada en Internet: Limitantes a vigilancia de EU, victoria de Snowden: Assange
El presidente de Estados Unidos ha validado el papel del ex agente de la NSA como denunciante con la medida sobre espionaje de Estados Unidos, dijo el fundador de WikiLeaks.

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MIT in Aaron Swartz Case: Not Neutral, Not Leading, Not Standing Up for Technolo…

MIT in Aaron Swartz Case: Not Neutral, Not Leading, Not Standing Up for Technologists

In January, our friend Aaron Swartz killed himself.  Aaron was unable to carry on against an overzealous government prosecution enforcing a grossly unfair and outdated law.  We, and millions of others around the world, were saddened beyond words.  Aaron was prosecuted for using legendary academic institution Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s open network to download articles from JSTOR, the digital library that sells scholarly articles, largely funded by public tax dollars, back to the public at something like $5-12 per article.
Academic institutions like MIT, however, don't pay for each article but instead pay subscription fees that give access to everyone within their communities, including visitors like Aaron. 

In light of Aaron's death, we and many others (including prominent alumni) have asked whether MIT could have done more to halt or limit his prosecution.  Even JSTOR publicly and privately opposed the prosecution, so MIT had an easy path to follow, but chose not to. So we were somewhat heartened when we heard that MIT was appointing esteemed computer science Professor Harold Abelson to do a thorough report.  We have tremendous respect for Professor Abelson and waited patiently for he and his colleagues to complete their work.  We hoped that at last someone would talk clearly about why MIT hadn’t stirred itself to stand up against a prosecution that targeted a man the university should have been proud to embrace – and against a law that would doubtless, sooner or later, be used to target or chill others within the MIT community.

Professor Abelson's report was released this week, and we are deeply disappointed.  Instead of looking critically at what MIT did and criticizing it where warranted, the report simply recites the same old excuses some members of the MIT community have been giving for the MIT’s failure to act.  The most criticism it can muster is to gently chide MIT for being “neutral” when an educational institution of its stature and importance might have considered playing a “leadership” role.

Others have given good criticisms of MIT’s choice to remain “neutral,” pointing out that neutrality wasn’t the right position for MIT to take here. We strongly agree. MIT could have pointed out that Aaron was likely authorized to use JSTOR given MIT’s open campus, something the head of the Media Lab asked it to do in a letter in June 2011, and it actually did in the David LaMacchia case in 1994. MIT also could have appealed to higher ups in the U.S. Attorneys office to investigate what was obviously a prosecutor who was overreaching.  MIT’s own conversations with the prosecutor, where he likened MIT to a “rape victim,” claimed that the JSTOR articles cost "millions of dollars" to create and falsely accusing Aaron of conducting a “wild Internet campaign” were clear enough signals. MIT certainly had the capability to reach out to U.S. Attorney Ortiz or trigger any of the other processes by which a prosecutor’s actions can be investigated. Worse, the assertion that this and similar conversations led MIT to decide that it could actually hurt Aaron by standing up for him is simply incredible.

But based on the report itself, we don’t think MIT was actually even “neutral,” by any reasonable definition of the word. Apparently MIT assisted the government from the very beginning — offering documents to the prosecution before being subpoenaed and allowing multiple interviews of MIT personnel, including without having counsel present. It did nothing similar for the defense, which it didn't even seriously talk to until June, 2011, five months after Aaron's arrest and then shined on for months at a time thereafter. In a particularly heart-wrenching example, the report notes with mild concern that MIT’s general counsel and outside specialist counsel incorrectly assumed the government would give documents MIT provided to the prosecution to the defense in a timely fashion.  That’s not even true — federal law doesn't require all documents to be turned over, just those deemed exculpatory, material to the defense, or that the government intends to use at trial. MIT’s inside or certainly its outside criminal counsel should have known this. But regardless, Aaron’s defense counsel fought with the prosecution to obtain even the required disclosures, which were essential to Aaron's defense, up until Aaron’s death. The government’s gamesmanship with documents greatly increased the pressure on Aaron and MIT couldn't even be bothered to call the defense to check on its faulty assumptions.

Eventually, the report admits that even the semblance of neutrality was abandoned when the defense filed motions to suppress some evidence and had the audacity to criticize MIT’s investigative processes.  Yet the report just meekly states that the motions “had the effect of aligning MIT’s interests more with the prosecution than with the defense.” At that point, MIT's counsel actually helped the government respond to the suppression motions and decided to let the government have ongoing access to its employees without counsel present through trial.

Let’s be clear: MIT faced no likely consequences from the suppression motions except perhaps a modicum of (perhaps deserved) embarrassment. Even if it bought the unconvincing claims of neutrality before this point, the report should have criticized the university harshly for abandoning its “neutrality” and directly aiding the government in this prosecution.

While Aaron’s prosecution is certainly not MIT’s fault, and neither is his death, MIT should be held accountable — indeed, it should hold itself to account — for its failure to live up to its own ideals.  Aside from its failure to help Aaron, MIT's actions in helping the government prosecute Aaron are shameful, and betray the institution’s commitment to technologists.

Aaron did what he did because of his deep and abiding belief that technology should make the world a better, more just place.  This is the lesson MIT should be teaching the world's technologists — that this goal is noble and important and that even if you "color outside the lines," in pursuit of it, you will be treated with fairness and a sense of proportion in any punishments that follow.

Over the years, we’ve advised many MIT students and professors about the risks to technologists of overbroad computer crime, intellectual property, and other laws aimed at technologists who “color outside the lines.” MIT well knows that these people also push innovation, are crucial to improving computer security and generally serve the public interest. So we were happy to see the report recommend that MIT participate more directly in the policy and legal debates that affect technologists so profoundly.  We call on MIT to publicly support Aaron’s law, the bipartisan bill aimed at reforming the CFAA, as well as the FASTR act and other efforts to fix some of the problems that both befell Aaron and that he was working to solve.

We also urge the MIT alumni and community to actively push its leadership into strongly supporting these efforts.  Another disappointing part of the report is the claim that MIT didn’t think the community cared.  That wasn’t true then and it’s not true now, but MIT folks need to take active steps to make sure there’s no misunderstanding in the MIT Office of General Counsel.

Together, maybe we can help bring MIT into the leadership role on technology and protecting technologists that it should have held all along.

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MIT in Aaron Swartz Case: Not Neutral, Not Leading, Not Standing Up for Technologists
In January, our friend Aaron Swartz killed himself.  Aaron was unable to carry on against an overzealous government prosecution enforcing a grossly unfair and outdated law.  We, and millions of others around the world, were saddened beyond words.  Aaron was prosecuted for using legendary academic institution Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s open network to download articles from JSTOR, the digital library that sells scholarly article…

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Now We Know Why Googling 'Pressure Cookers' Gets a Visit from Cops

Philip Bump 310,739 Views Aug 1, 2013
Michele Catalano was looking for information online about pressure cookers. Her husband, in the same time frame, was Googling backpacks. Wednesday morning, six men from a joint terrorism task force showed up at their house to see if they were terrorists. Which prompts the question: How'd the government know what they were Googling?
Update, 7:05 p.m.: Because the Googling happened at work.
The Suffolk County Police Department released a statement this evening that answers the great mystery of the day.

Suffolk County Criminal Intelligence Detectives received a tip from a Bay Shore based computer company regarding suspicious computer searches conducted by a recently released employee.  The former employee’s computer searches took place on this employee’s workplace computer. On that computer, the employee searched the terms “pressure cooker bombs” and “backpacks.” 

After interviewing the company representatives, Suffolk County Police Detectives visited the subject’s home to ask about the suspicious internet searches. The incident was investigated by Suffolk County Police Department’s Criminal Intelligence Detectives and was determined to be non-criminal in nature.
Original article: Catalano (who is a professional writer) describes the tension of that visit.
[T]hey were peppering my husband with questions. Where is he from?
Where are his parents from? They asked about me, where was I, where do I work, where do my parents live. Do you have any bombs, they asked. Do you own a pressure cooker? My husband said no, but we have a rice cooker. Can you make a bomb with that? My husband said no, my wife uses it to make quinoa. What the hell is quinoa, they asked. …

Have you ever looked up how to make a pressure cooker bomb? My husband, ever the oppositional kind, asked them if they themselves weren’t curious as to how a pressure cooker bomb works, if they ever looked it up. Two of them admitted they did.

The men identified themselves as members of the "joint terrorism task force." The composition of such task forces depend on the region of the country, but, as we outlined after the Boston bombings, include a variety of federal agencies. (The photo above is from the door-to-door sweep in Watertown at that time.) Among those agencies: the FBI and Homeland Security.

As of this afternoon, it was still not clear which agency knocked on Catalano's door. The Guardian reported that an FBI spokesperson said that Catalano "was visited by Nassau County police department … working in conjunction with Suffolk County police department." (Catalano apparently lives on Long Island, most likely in Nassau County.)

Detective Garcia of the Nassau County Police, however, told The Atlantic Wire by phone that his department was "not involved in any way." Similarly, FBI spokesperson Peter Donald confirmed with The Atlantic Wire that his agency wasn't involved in the visit. He also stated that he could not answer whether or not the agency provided information that led to the visit, as he didn't know.

Local and state authorities work jointly with federal officials on terror investigations similar to the one Catalano describes. Both Suffolk and Nassau County's police departments are members of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), Donald confirmed. Suffolk County is also home to a "fusion center," a regionally located locus for terror investigations associated with the Department of Homeland Security.

It wasn't the JTTF that led to the visit at Catalano's house, Donald
told us. The task force deputizes local authorities as federal marshals, including some in Suffolk and Nassau, who can then act on its behalf. But, Donald said, "officers, agents, or other representatives of the JTTF did not visit that location.

Ever since details of the NSA's surveillance infrastructure were leaked by Edward Snowden, the agency has been insistent on the boundaries of the information it collects. It is not, by law, allowed to spy on Americans — although there are exceptions of which it takes advantage. Its PRISM program, under which it collects internet content, does not include information from Americans unless those Americans are connected to terror suspects by no more than two other people. It collects metadata on phone calls made by Americans, but reportedly stopped collecting metadata on Americans' internet use in 2011. So how, then, would the government know what Catalano and her husband were searching for?

It's possible that one of the two of them is tangentially linked to a foreign terror suspect, allowing the government to review their internet activity. After all, that "no more than two other people" ends up covering millions of people. Or perhaps the NSA, as part of its routine collection of as much internet traffic as it can, automatically flags things like Google searches for "pressure cooker" and "backpack" and passes on anything it finds to the FBI.

Or maybe it was something else. On Wednesday, The Guardian reported on XKeyscore, a program eerily similar to Facebook search that could clearly allow an analyst to run a search that picked out people who'd done searches for those items from the same location. How those searches got into the government's database is a question worth asking; how the information got back out seems apparent.
It is also possible that there were other factors that prompted the government's interest in Catalano and her husband. He travels to Asia, she notes in her article. Who knows. Which is largely Catalano's point.
They mentioned that they do this about 100 times a week. And that 99 of those visits turn out to be nothing. I don’t know what happens on the other 1% of visits and I’m not sure I want to know what my neighbors are up to.
One hundred times a week, groups of six armed men drive to houses in three black SUVs, conducting consented-if-casual searches of the property perhaps in part because of things people looked up online.
But the NSA doesn't collect data on Americans, so this certainly won't happen to you.
You might also want to read our look at how to hide from the NSA, or a comparison of the NSA's recently revealed search tool with Facebook's.

Correction: After confirmation from the FBI that its agents weren't involved in the visit, the headline of this piece was changed to "Visit From the Cops" instead of "the Feds."
Photo: Massachusetts police search a home after the Boston bombings.

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Update: Now We Know Why Googling ‘Pressure Cookers’ Gets a Visit from Cops
Michele was Googling pressure cookers. Her husband was looking at backpacks. So six men from a joint terrorism task force showed up at their house. How’d the government know what they were Googling? (Update: Because it was at work.)

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