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hartford criminal defense lawyerIn the United States, people expect the legal system to be open and honest. Legal documents filed in court and the decisions made in legal proceedings are made available to the public, providing people with an understanding of their rights and how the laws are applied in specific situations. However, one of the most important courts in the U.S. operates under a veil of secrecy. Even though its decisions affect the types of surveillance that law enforcement officials can use in criminal cases, these decisions are not always made available to the public. Criminal justice advocates have raised concerns about how this secrecy affects the civil liberties of people in the United States.

Decisions by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) was created in 1978, and it was given the power to oversee the types of surveillance conducted by officials in matters related to national security. While the court initially had a narrow focus, authorizing a few hundred wiretaps each year, its powers were expanded significantly following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

This expanded role occurred at the same time that new forms of technology became available that allowed for mass surveillance of millions of people. As government officials have begun to collect data about people’s communications and activities, the court has authorized a number of programs that have affected people’s privacy rights. The FISC has allowed the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect records of phone calls made within the United States and between the U.S. and other countries, including details about who made calls, when calls were made, and how long they lasted. It has also allowed government agencies to scan people’s emails and collect information about messages people have sent online. In many cases, these forms of surveillance have been authorized without the need to show probable cause or suspicion of criminal activity.


state police, Hartford criminal defense attorneyIn light of increasing concerns over police violence and the right of the public to film officers as they respond to calls and incidents, very few videos have been made public that provide insight into the discussions between responding officers on the job. Recently, one such video from West Hartford has gained a level of notoriety as a protestor from Connecticut captured a conversation between Connecticut State Troopers as they seemed to fabricate justifications for citing him. Despite promises from the State Police to investigate the matter, there has been no publicized action involving the officers as of yet, and the man is due in court next month in his effort to get his citations dismissed.

Open-Carry DUI Checkpoint Protest

The incident arose when 27-year-old man mounted a protest against a DUI checkpoint near an Interstate 84 exit ramp in West Hartford last September. Choosing to exercise both First and Second Amendment rights, the man held a sign warning motorists of the checkpoint and encouraging them to remain silent, while openly carrying a holstered handgun. Connecticut is an open carry state, and the man had both a license to carry and a valid permit for the weapon. Within about an hour, Connecticut State Troopers arrived, secured his gun, and confiscated his video camera. One officer can be seen on the video saying that it is illegal to take his picture. Without realizing that it was still recording, the troopers placed the camera on the roof of a cruiser.

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