Nebraska women charged over illegal abortion after Facebook hands over private data – National & International News – THU 11Aug2022

Two women in Nebraska are facing charges related to an illegal abortion after Facebook handed over tons of their private user data to police.



Nebraska women charged over illegal abortion after Facebook hands over private data. FBI subpoenas Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers in fake electors probe. US reporter missing since 2012 being held in Syria, officials say.


Nebraska women face abortion charges after Facebook hands over private data

In early June, before the Supreme Court decision on abortion, Facebook handed over heaps of user data for two women, Jessica Burgess, 41, and her daughter Celeste Burgess, then 17, in compliance with a subpoena from Norfolk, Nebraska police. This included profile contact information, wall postings, friend listing, Facebook IDs, and private messages. According to Facebook, the warrants they received did not mention abortion but an investigation about a stillborn baby. It’s not clear how much data Facebook turned over, but it made no effort to contest the subpoena.

It emerged from the private messages that the 17-year-old daughter was about 23 weeks pregnant. She and her mother spoke in the messages about Celeste taking abortion medications, and agreed to “burn the evidence”, meaning the aborted fetus.

In Nebraska, abortions beyond the 20-week mark are illegal. Fetuses are usually considered viable outside the womb at 23 or 24 weeks. Additionally, abortion pills are also not recommended for use beyond 10 weeks’ pregnancy. 

As a result, Jessica Burgess is charged with performing or attempting an abortion greater than 20 weeks, performing an abortion when not a licensed doctor, removing/concealing/abandoning a dead human body, concealing the death of another person and false reporting. The daughter, Celeste, is being charged as an adult with removing/concealing/abandoning a dead human body, concealing the death of another person and false reporting.

How “private” is private data?

While the Burgess case, as stated by police and prosecutors, appears to be a clear-cut criminal case, the ease with which police were able to obtain their personal social media data and private messages has raised broader questions. It would seem to validate the concerns of pro-choice advocates who fear that users’ online data maybe be used to prosecute women seeking to circumvent more restrictive abortion laws than Nebraska currently has.

At this moment, state-level politicians in numerous states are weighing bills that would impose criminal penalties for certain types of contraception, out-of-state abortions, and use of abortion medications. The Burgess case is worrying for its implications for people who might seek to purchase abortion pills online for pregnancies less than 10 weeks, arrange an out-of-state abortion, or help women to obtain any of these services. 

Facebook’s own messaging on this issue has been mixed. While vowing to protect the privacy of its users, it has so far done little to do so.

In cases of criminality, police have other options for obtaining data on suspects’ online activity where warranted. This includes subpoenaing the devices of an alleged offender. 

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FBI subpoenas Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers as fake electors probe expands

Earlier this week, US Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) announced that the FBI had seized his phone. Perry is one of the dozen or so Congressmen who allegedly took part in former President Trump’s scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 election. According to testimony from former White House staffer Cassidy Hutchinson, Perry and several other members of Congress inquired about the possibility of receiving a pre-emptive presidential pardon from Trump before he left office.

A statement from Perry’s office says investigators told his attorneys that Perry himself was not the target of their investigation. However, several Pennsylvania state lawmakers have also received subpoenas. The information requested from them seems to center on Perry and his role in efforts to promote a set of fake electors from the state that would be favorable to Trump. 

Perry’s name has come up repeatedly in the Jan. 6 hearings. It was Perry who introduced Trump to Deputy Attorney Jeffrey Clark. Trump considered promoting Clark to replace acting AG Jeffrey Rosen. Rosen had refused to sign a letter Trump wanted to send to legislators in six states calling on them to appoint these slates of pro-Trump electors. Clark, on the other hand, was more than willing to sign this letter. Trump ultimately decided not to appoint Clark after high-ranking DOJ officials threatened to resign.

DOJ officials raided Clark’s home in June.

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US reporter missing since 2012 being held in Syria, officials say

It’s been over 10 years since Austin Tice, an American freelance journalist and former Marine, went missing while reporting on the war in Syria. President Biden says that US authorities know “with certainty” that Tice is being held in Syria and called on the government of Bashar Al Assad to negotiate for his release. Assad’s government has never confirmed that it is holding Tice.

Tice turns 41 today. His mother, Debra Tice, has criticized the Biden administration for not doing enough to secure Austin’s release. The Trump administration reached out to Assad on Tice’s behalf, but Assad refused to negotiate while US troops were still present in Syria. 

Biden met with the Tice family in May, and renewed his plea to Assad yesterday. “The United States government has worked very hard to convince me that they’re working on it,” Debra Tice said. “My response is: Don’t tell me. Show me”.

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