Transparency News 10/15/13


Tuesday, October 15, 2013
State and Local Stories


Today is the deadline to register to vote in Virginia’s Nov. 5 election.  The Virginia State Board of Elections urges residents to check their registration status and polling place. To do so, visit the State Board of Elections’ website, or by calling (800) 552-9745. Applications sent by mail must be postmarked today.

Gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe did not publicly disclose his investment with a Rhode Island man who preyed on dying people in forms filed with the state four years ago. A financial disclosure statement that McAuliffe submitted in 2009, during his failed bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, makes no mention of what was then an active investment with Joseph A. Caramadre, who has pleaded guilty to scamming terminally ill people.
Washington Post

On Monday Virginia Democrats said Sen. Mark Obenshain, a Harrisonburg Republican running for attorney general, has tripped over himself trying to put distance between himself and the man he hopes to succeed in office. In an article in Sunday's Daily Press, Obenshain said he would have avoided the time-consuming efforts of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to investigate potential fraud by former University of Virginia professor Michael Mann, a climate change researcher. Obenshain, a former James Madison University regent, said Mann's research records should have been off-limits for the purposes of a fraud investigation. "I understand the principle of academic freedom," he said in a meeting with Daily Press editors and reporters. Sen. Mark Herring, the Democratic candidate for governor, and the state Democratic Party seized on the comments as a flip-flop, pointing to a 2011 vote Obenshain cast against a bill aimed at stopping similar investigations of academics.
Daily Press

There are apparently a lot of internal rivalries being played out among the political leaders of Haymarket, and a number of them unfurled publicly on Haymarket Day, the town’s annual festival. On that festive day of Sept. 21, the town’s police chief charged the vice mayor with being drunk in public, after the vice mayor got in a scuffle with a council member’s husband. Then the town’s mayor swore out a complaint against a former town council member, now chair of the planning commission and former mayoral rival, for swearing at him in public. Then the town council censured the vice mayor before his case ever went to court. Got that?
Washington Post

National Stories

Al Jazeera must unseal its lawsuit against AT&T Inc within five business days after a Delaware judge sided on Monday with news organizations that objected to secrecy in the case. The dispute stems from AT&T's refusal to carry the U.S. news network that was launched by the Qatar-based Al Jazeera in August.

On the heels of Yahoo! Inc.'s first transparency report on government requests for user data, the tech giant has revealed more details about its interactions with Washington, D.C., putting its lobbying efforts in the spotlight. Yahoo on Friday disclosed its "U.S. Political Engagement Policy," which describes how it seeks to influence U.S. policymakers through lobbyists, campaign donations, and advocacy groups. On its investor relations website, the company has details about its U.S. government engagement guidelines and political philosophy. Additionally, the website posts information on Yahoo's political action committee contributions and lobbying activities, which also are available to the public through U.S. government databases.
Blog of LegalTimes

The National Security Agency is harvesting hundreds of millions of contact lists from personal e-mail and instant messaging accounts around the world, many of them belonging to Americans, according to senior intelligence officials and top secret documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The collection program, which has not been disclosed before, intercepts e-mail address books and “buddy lists” from instant messaging services as they move across global data links. Online services often transmit those contacts when a user logs on, composes a message, or synchronizes a computer or mobile device with information stored on remote servers.
Washington Post

The whole idea of Snapchat is take a photo, share it, and, poof, it's gone. But, there are certain circumstances when images could come back to haunt users, especially if law enforcement officials are involved. The photo-sharing app penned a blog post on Monday about the situations in which the service is obliged to hand over "snaps" to the police. The central takeaway is that Snapchat can only give unopened snaps to the police -- because those are the snaps saved on its servers.


Roger Chesley, Virginian-Pilot: I cringe anytime some entity - a bank, credit card company, hospital, etc. - requests my personal information. I can't get service unless I hand over my date of birth, Social Security number or other unique details. I'm cautious about whom I give the info to. Almost always, enough controls are in place to ensure no one misuses the digits. The Boss is more angst-ridden than I about this stuff. I assure her we're doing everything we can to prevent identity theft and fraud. The Boss frets, but she usually comes around. Then an article runs about identity theft. And I have to reassess whether I'm too trusting.

Richard Stallman, Wired: The current level of general surveillance in society is incompatible with human rights. To recover our freedom and restore democracy, we must reduce surveillance to the point where it is possible for whistleblowers of all kinds to talk with journalists without being spotted. To do this reliably, we must reduce the surveillance capacity of the systems we use.