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They Said It… With Judge Napolitano, Seth Meyers, and More

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 20 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

OBAMA’S ILLEGAL WAR: “The war against the Islamic State is now illegal. The War Powers Resolution of 1973 gave President Obama 60 days to gain consent from Congress and required him to end ‘hostilities’ within 30 days if he failed to do so. This 90-day clock expired this week.” — Bruce Ackerman. professor of law and political science at Yale University, “Congress must act as Obama’s war against the Islamic State hits an expiration date,” Washington Post Nov. 7 2014.

MEET THE NEW BOSS, SAME AS THE OLD BOSS: “In case you didn’t notice, the new Congress is likely to be closer to President Obama’s views on executive power, surveillance, transparency.” — post-election tweet from Atlantic.com journalist Conor Friedersdorf, Nov. 5, 2014.

Judge Andrew NapolitanoTWEEDLEDUMB AND TWEEDLEDUMBER: “The two major political parties are more alike than they are different. On the two paramount issues of our day — war and debt — they are identical. With the exception of Democratic progressives and Republican libertarians, the two parties stand for perpetual war and perpetual debt. Both stances increase the power of the government, and each invites present and future destruction.” — Judge Andrew Napolitano, “More Culture Wars,” syndicated column, Nov. 6, 2014.

COINCIDENCE? “New Hampshire has among the least restrictive gun laws in the U.S. and the lowest homicide rate of any state.” — tweet from the Free State Project, Nov. 11, 2014.

YOUR FBI FILE: “Nearly one out of every three American adults are on file in the FBI’s master criminal database. … Over the past years, prompted by changing police tactics and a zero-tolerance attitude toward small crimes, authorities have made more than a quarter of a billion arrests, the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates.” — reporters Gary Fields and John R. Emshwiller, “For More Teens, Arrests by Police Replace School Discipline,” Wall Street Journal, Oct. 20, 2014.


VA BLUES:

Seth Meyers“It’s been announced that a Union soldier who fought at the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War will be awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama over 151 years after his death. Even better, he finally got an appointment at the VA hospital.” — Seth Meyers, “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” Nov. 6, 2014.

They Said It… With Ron Paul, The Libertarian Party and More

in Communicating Liberty by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 19 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

UBER BRINGS WEALTH TO THE MASSES: “Once, only the privileged few, the studio bosses and pampered starlets, could afford to have a chauffeur and a waiting car to transport them around sprawling Los Angeles. Now anyone with a credit card can enjoy that freedom. … A short ride through downtown in UberX, the company’s lower-priced service, introduced here last spring, can cost as little as $4.” — journalist Melena Ryzik, “How Uber Is Changing Night Life in Los Angeles,” New York Times, Oct. 31, 2014.

RON PAUL FEELS A DRAFT:
Ron Paul“As the burden of our hyper-interventionist foreign policy increases, it is increasingly likely that there will be serious attempts to reinstate the military draft. … This is an issue that has long united authoritarians on the left and right. … It is baffling that conservatives who (properly) oppose raising taxes would support any form of national service, including the military draft. It is similarly baffling that liberals who oppose government interference with our personal lives would support mandatory national service. Mandatory national service is a totalitarian policy that should be rejected by all who value liberty.” — Ron Paul, “National Service is Anti-Liberty and Un-American,” weekly column, Oct. 19, 2014.

CIA NAZIS: “In the decades after World War II, the CIA and other United States agencies employed at least a thousand Nazis as Cold War spies and informants and, as recently as the 1990s, concealed the government’s ties to some still living in America, newly disclosed records and interviews show.

“At the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, law enforcement and intelligence leaders like J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI and Allen Dulles at the CIA aggressively recruited onetime Nazis of all ranks as secret, anti-Soviet ‘assets,’ declassified records show. They believed the ex-Nazis’ intelligence value against the Russians outweighed what one official called ‘moral lapses’ in their service to the Third Reich.”  — Eric Lichtblau, “In Cold War, U.S. Spy Agencies Used 1,000 Nazis,” New York Times, Oct. 26, 2014.

THE LIBERTARIAN PARTY AND THE BALANCE OF POWER: “Libertarian candidates may have decided the winner in at least six federal and governor races, despite record-shattering spending levels in support of the Democratic and Republican candidates. Each race where a Libertarian threatens to affect the outcome of an election puts pressure on the old parties to move in a libertarian direction by reducing government’s size, scope, and authority.

“It’s also a sign that more Americans reject the argument that there’s any substantial difference between Democratic and Republican politicians. Voters are seeing that which of the two wins is of little consequence.” — Libertarian Party,  post-election blog post, “Libertarians play key role in highly contested races,” Nov. 5, 2014.

Are You on the Fed’s Terrorist Watchlist?

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

You can be pulled into the NSA’s database, put on a terrorist watchlist, and receive discriminatory treatment from local, state, and national law enforcement agents — without warning or notice, and for something as innocent as a Facebook or Twitter post.

So reports journalist Arjun Sethi in a shocking story in The Guardian, August 30, entitled, appropriately enough, “The US government can brand you a terrorist based on a Facebook post.”

“Through ICREACH, a Google-style search engine created for the intelligence community, the NSA provides data on private communications to 23 government agencies. More than 1,000 analysts had access to that information. …

“It was confirmed earlier this month that the FBI shares its master watchlist, the Terrorist Screening Database, with at least 22 foreign governments, countless federal agencies, state and local law enforcement, plus private contractors…

“The Terrorist Screening Database watchlist tracks ‘known’ and ‘suspected’ terrorists and includes both foreigners and Americans. It’s also based on loose standards and secret evidence, which ensnares innocent people. Indeed, the standards are so low that the U.S. government’s guidelines specifically allow for a single, uncorroborated source of information — including a Facebook or Twitter post — to serve as the basis for placing you on its master watchlist.”

Indeed, according to the investigative journalism website The Intercept, the Terrorist Screening Database has about 680,000 people on it — and more than 40 percent are described by the government itself as having “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” That’s a whopping 280,000 people.

Continues the Guardian: “These eye-popping numbers are largely the result of the US government’s use of a loose standard — so-called ‘reasonable suspicion’ — in determining who, exactly, can be watchlisted.

“Reasonable suspicion is such a low standard because it requires neither ‘concrete evidence’ nor ‘irrefutable evidence.’ Instead, an official is permitted to consider ‘reasonable inferences’ and ‘to draw from the facts in light of his/her experience.’”

Further, the loose rules allow watchlisting without even the minimum standard of  reasonable suspicion. Non-citizens can be watchlisted just for being associated with a watchlisted person, even if the relationship is totally innocent. If a source or tipster describes a non-citizen as an “extremist,” a “militant,” or some similar term, and the FBI can make some vague connection, this could be enough to watchlist a person. The watchlist designation is secret, so no one is able to challenge these allegations.

But being on the watchlist can bring terrible consequences, notes the Guardian:

“Life on the master watchlist can trigger enhanced screening at borders and airports; being on the No Fly List, which is a subset of the larger terrorist watchlist, can prevent airline travel altogether. The watchlist can separate family members for months or years, isolate individuals from friends and associates, and ruin employment prospects.

“Being branded a terrorism suspect also has far-reaching privacy implications. The watchlist is widely accessible, and government officials routinely collect the biometric data of watchlisted individuals, including their fingerprints and DNA strands. Law enforcement has likewise been directed to gather any and all available evidence when encountering watchlisted individuals, including receipts, business cards, health information and bank statements. …

“A watchlist based on poor standards and secret processes raises major constitutional concerns, including the right to travel freely and not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law.”

Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, agrees: “We’re getting into Minority Report territory when being friends with the wrong person can mean the government puts you in a database and adds DMV photos, iris scans, and face recognition technology to track you secretly and without your knowledge. The fact that this information can be shared with agencies from the CIA to the NYPD, which are not known for protecting civil liberties, brings us closer to an invasive and rights-violating government surveillance society at home and abroad.”

The Guardian concludes with a question you’re probably already asking yourself:

“Indeed, you can’t help but wonder: are you already on the watchlist?”

Read the next article from this issue here.

Go back to the full issue here.

Surveillance, Safety… and Rabbit Hunting

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

For the past year or so liberty-loving Americans have been appalled by the revelations of Rabbit HuntingEdward Snowden and others about the secret and unconstitutional spying programs the federal government is engaged in.

Ironically, we’ve also learned that the programs have been spectacularly ineffective. As the federal Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board said earlier this year:

“We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation. Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.”

And that reminds me of a story…

Federal Rabbit Hunting

The NSA, the CIA and the FBI were fighting among themselves, each arguing that they were the best and most qualified at apprehending terrorists.

Finally the president decided to settle the argument with a simple test. He would release a rabbit into a forest, and give each agency a chance to find and capture it.

The NSA went first. They placed cameras throughout the forest. They eavesdropped on every animal, plant and mineral. NSA drones circled the forest, filming every leaf on every tree. After three months of extensive investigations the NSA concluded that there was no rabbit in the forest at all. But they warned the president that 300 other kinds of animals and insects were behaving strangely and the whole forest needed round-the-clock surveillance.

Then the CIA went in. They captured numerous innocent animals and questioned them harshly, but got no information. After two weeks with no leads they burned the forest to the ground, killing everything in it. “The rabbit had it coming,” one agent said. (Later, the NSA sent the president a classified tape showing the rabbit hopping away from the forest just before it was destroyed.)

Finally the FBI had their chance. They went into another forest chosen by the president. Just two hours later they proudly emerged — holding a ruffled, badly frightened raccoon. The raccoon shouted: “Okay! Okay! I’m a rabbit! I’m a rabbit!”

* * *
Tired of the surveillance state? See this issue’s Intellectual Ammunition column to learn about “Reset The Net,” a worldwide effort to preserve free speech and liberty on the Internet by taking simple steps to shut off the government’s mass surveillance capabilities. You’re invited to take part.