A Week in Review - April 15th, 2016

The ATF has admitted it mounted a large, box-like device on an AZ power pole, after its mysterious appearance made the local news.  The agency failed to notify the utility company of the box's placement, it was installed by men arriving in a van marked with a fictitious business name, and the ATF will not divulge the contents or capabilities of the device. They have made no statement regarding what appears to be a surveillance device, aside than it is "part of an ongoing investigation."

Landlords choosing not to rent to someone with a criminal record may now be prosecuted and fined for racial discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a 10-page "guidance" making the argument that, since non-whites have a much higher conviction and incarceration rate, any restriction based on criminal history is little more than racism.  No guidance has been issued on whether prohibiting felons from purchasing guns or working in daycare facilities is also institutionalized racism - but perhaps it's worth asking.

The TX Attorney General's office is investigating sixty violations of a new gun law that took effect this year, prohibiting the posting of "no firearms" signs on certain government buildings.  Any government entity determined to be in violation and which refuses to remove the signs "will be fined for every day they remain posted — $1,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for any offense after that."

A CA Congresswoman has proposed a bill mandating that shops selling inexpensive or pre-paid cell phones collect buyer identification.  Referring to the purchase of a legal consumer product without government tracking as a loophole, Congresswoman Jackie Speier said her bill would "close one of the most significant gaps in our ability to track and prevent acts of terror, drug trafficking, and modern-day slavery,”

A CA high school Board of Trustees approved a measure allowing staff members with concealed carry permits to be armed on campus as a defensive front line for the students.  Kingsburg High School District's new policy will now offer an application to holders of concealed carry permits, permitting them to carry on campus but with the expectation that "given the situation, you will protect staff and students with your firearm that you've been granted permission to carry," said Randy Morris, Superintendent.

REMINDER:  While using fingerprint scanners can protect iPhones from the hacking method recently employed by the FBI, biometric data is NOT protected by the Fifth Amendment.

The House of Representatives is moving forward with H.R. 699, which would require warrants to access data stored on the cloud longer than 180 days - something not required today by the thirty-year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).  Currently, law enforcement agencies may access such data after serving only a subpoena - without judicial review - on the provider storing the data.  It's worth noting, however, that HR699 would also allow police to serve warrants on only the provider, rather than including the person being investigated as well.

An FCC commissioner Ajit Pai announced that his agency was instructed to not release details of an "Obamaphone" investigation uncovering $10 million of fraud until one day after the program was renewed.  FCC spokesman Will Wiquist, however, insists that the timing was "purely coincidental."  You may recall Commissioner Pai's dissent last year, when the FCC declared the internet to be a Title II utility and therefore under their regulatory purview.